A California University of Pennsylvania basketball player found unresponsive in her off-campus apartment Jan. 18 died of complications of sickle cell trait, the Washington County coroner said Monday.
Shanice Clark, 21, of Toronto was found in her apartment at Vulcan Village, a university complex on California Road, about 3 a.m. and was pronounced dead just over an hour later at Monongahela Valley Hospital, Coroner Tim Warco said in a news release.
At that time, California Borough police said she died because she aspirated gum while sleeping.
Most people with sickle cell trait don’t have symptoms of disease, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in rare cases in which the body is pushed to extreme conditions, people with the trait might experience complications of the disease, and, in extreme circumstances, sudden death.
Because about 8 percent of blacks in the United States carry the trait, NCAA guidelines require all student athletes in Division I and II schools to be tested for sickle cell trait.
A spokeswoman for Cal U said the athletics department was aware that Clark had sickle cell trait.
“As a campus community, we keep Shanice in our thoughts, especially as the women’s basketball team focuses on tonight’s playoff game. Her teammates continue to wear her #44 jersey on the sidelines in her memory,” said spokeswoman Christine Kindl.
The women’s basketball team defeated Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania 72-69 on Monday and advance to the Elite Eight competition in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Clark was a senior forward on the team. A senior communications major, she had transferred to Cal U from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or [email protected].