By Ryan Fennell
LITTLE SIVER – Family, friends and teammates are expected to gather Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church for the viewing and funeral of Albert Martin, the Red Bank Regional High School student who collapsed and died following a basketball scrimmage.
The viewing for Martin, 17, the lone senior on the Buccaneers basketball team, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the church, also known as Tower Hill, at 255 Harding Road. A funeral service will follow the viewing hours, according to school officials.
In addition, officials at RBR have established the Albert Martin Memorial Fund and are accepting monetary donations in his memory. Those who wish to donate may send a donation to: The Source at RBR, 101 Ridge Road, Little Silver, NJ 07739, Attention: Suzanne Keller. Checks should be made payable to the Source Foundation with the “Albert Martin Memorial Fund” indicated on the check. Donations can be made through PayPal on the RBR website at www.rbrhs.org.
The Source is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization.
Martin’s number, No. 34, will be formally retired by the school during a home basketball game at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, against Red Bank Catholic High School. Martin’s mother, Traci Dixon, will be presented with his framed jersey, according to school officials.
Martin had played the first 6 minutes of the team’s first scrimmage of the season on Monday, Dec. 3, before heading to the bench for the final 2 minutes of the first quarter. Before returning to start the second quarter, Martin stumbled backward and collapsed to the floor, according to Scott Martin, the boy’s head basketball coach.
He was treated in the gym and then transported to Riverview Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
“Albert was an outstanding young man who exemplified all the qualities that you look for in a young person,” said District Superintendent Jim Stefankiewicz. “Albert worked hard every day to excel in the classroom. Albert had a wonderful personality. He touched the lives of so many people. He was caring, thoughtful, respectful and a good friend to his classmates.
“Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and everyone in the RBR community who is hurting as a result of this traumatic loss,” the superintendent said.
Someone especially close to Martin was James Young, a teacher at RBR and the girls’ head basketball coach. Over the course of the last four years Young had become a mentor to Martin both in the classroom through its Advancement through Individual Determination (AVID) program and on the basketball court.
“We started to develop a relationship almost like a big brother or fatherly type of relationship in school,” Young said. “As we moved forward, we started talking about getting his grades up, coming to school, basketball, and getting out of Red Bank and becoming a man.
“It’s hard,” said Young. “There’s nothing that we’ve ever been taught as teachers or as coaches to go through a situation like this.”
Young remembered Martin’s infectious smile. “Albert was someone that when he smiled, he could light the room up. It didn’t matter what kind of day you were having, when you saw that smile your day was changed.”
The fact that Martin was the only senior on the team was unusual and also came with responsibilities.
“This is tragic in so many ways,” said Scott Martin, who was not related to Albert. “He was really growing into a great young man. He was taking responsibility for being the only senior in the basketball program. He was the rock of the program and his teammates looked up to him for advice on and off the court.
“He reluctantly, at first, shouldered that responsibility,” the coach said. “But, as we entered our season, he accepted that responsibility more and more, like the man he and I talked so much about being.”
According to his coach, Martin was heading in the right direction and was situated to continue playing basketball at the college level. Scott Martin believed that Albert would ultimately go to a college where he could play basketball and get an education that best suited him, get a degree and start a life for himself.
“He was hitting his stride as a young man,” Scott Martin said. “It was a big stride. It was going to be a great stride.”
The school community has come together to assist Martin’s family, district spokeswoman Marianne Kligman said.
Students are honoring Albert Martin’s memory by creating and selling T-shirts that incorporate “4 Albert” in the design. Students also will be selling buttons embossed with Albert’s photograph and were expected to hold bake sales after school with the proceeds being donated to the memorial fund.
The district has been “extremely tested” this year, Kligman said. Early in September, 18-year-old senior Riyadh’Na Farrow died suddenly and in late October many students were seriously impacted by Super Storm Sandy.
“I’m amazed by this community and how they come together and care for one another,” Kligman said.
RBR will be providing counselors from its guidance department and its school-based youth services program to students, staff, and families for as long as necessary to deal with the community’s loss.