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Bryant HS mourns hoops star

Adrian Simpson, a junior at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, died Feb. 21 while playing with friends at IS 145 in Jackson Heights, his former junior high school. According to the city medical examiner, the cause of death has not yet been determined.More than 50 tearful classmates joined family members at St. Mark's Church on Northern Boulevard to pay their respects. The young athlete lay in an open casket, clad in his No. 4 Bryant jersey, with his left hand clutching a basketball. Beside the casket, mourners had created a collage of childhood photographs entitled "Adrian's Way."Adrian was born in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica and moved to Jackson Heights four years ago, his family said. Jackie Gibbs, Adrian's mother, said her son was a happy child who enjoyed cricket, soccer and track, but loved basketball "with a passion.""He dreamed of someday going into the NBA," she said. "He was constantly trying to perfect himself."The 6-foot-4 power forward was well-liked by his teammates. The entire varsity squad came to pay their respects."He was always fun to be around," said teammate Mike Merricks, 18. "He was very outgoing."Teammate Shawn Robinson, 18, described Adrian as funny and very competitive.Adrian's teachers remembered him as a friendly, focused student."He was a gentle giant, he was so tall," said Laura Cannistraci, who had Adrian in her global studies class last year. "But he was also a hard worker. He would never quit. He always tried to do better."Math teacher Pelagia Papoutsis agreed Adrian was a driven student."He would come to math tutoring almost every day," she said. "He was always smiling."Adrian's basketball coach, John Demas, described the teen as introverted and hardworking on and off the court."He was improving every day, constantly getting better," he said. "You could see the talent coming out of him."Pastor Howard Dill, who had Adrian in his congregation since he moved to the area, said the teen was a devout parishioner and a role model for his peers."Because of his example, their lives will be turned, and hopefully a seed of virtuousness will be planted," he said.Adrian's impact on his classmates was evident in the writings on a poster board memorial card left in the church's lobby, filled with messages of love."I will always miss you," Merricks wrote.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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