KEARNEY — Talon Trampe’s promising freshman basketball season came to a premature end because of health concerns.
He had hopes he would come back.
Today, the Amherst community mourns the death of the young man who had a bright future.
Talon died Saturday, just weeks after heart surgery to repair damage caused by Marfan syndrome, a disorder that attacks connective tissue, including the heart.
“He was the type of kid teachers and administrators like to have in school,” Amherst Superintendent Tom Moore said. “He worked real hard in the classroom and was kind to other kids. He was respectful to the staff.”
Amherst basketball coach Eric Rippen said Talon was one of his favorite students. Rippen recalled his first year teaching at Amherst, Talon was in his fourth-grade class.
“Obviously, I love sports and he loved sports so we had a connection right away from Day 1 that we knew each other. That relationship has just grown. ... He was one of my favorite kids around the school to be around. I feel very fortunate to be able to call him a friend. He almost became like a son to me to a point,” said Rippen.
The two shared a love for Xbox games and most importantly, basketball.
From the time he started school, Trampe towered over his classmates.
Rippen, who is 5 foot, 10 inches tall, said Talon was just barely shorter than him when he stepped into that fourth-grade classroom.
“Every day he would come into the classroom and he’d have to come stand by me to check to see if he was taller than me. By the end of the year he was dead even with me. When he came back the next school year. I think he was a whole head taller than me,” Rippen said.
By the time he stepped on the court his freshman year, he was 6-foot-5. He averaged 7.2 points per game and collected a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game. He also averaged 3.4 blocked shots, a mark that led the Hub Territory statistics.
“Nobody knew how much he was going to keep growing. It seemed like every time we saw him he was an inch or two taller,” Rippen said. “Nobody really knew what that was going to do, but as a freshman just the things that he was doing ... he was only going to keep getting better. His skills were going to keep developing more and more. ... No one ever would have guessed he was a freshman. I mean, his IQ was really, really high for the age. He was playing at an upperclassman level, definitely already.”
But it was during a conditioning drill before the Christmas break that his health issues came to light.
“He was struggling really bad with it and grabbing at his chest,” Rippen said. “I went over and asked if he was OK and he said he had this deal going on with his heart and he was going to get it looked at.”
Shortly after that, doctors diagnosed him with Marfan syndrome. As a result, Talon’s season ended after he had played in 14 of Amherst’s 24 games.
His absence was felt in more places than the box score.
“He was just a joy to be around. He was always the kid that was on the team that was going to make the rest of the team smile. Once we learned of his condition, that he might not be able to play basketball, he became the heart and soul of our team. Every game that he couldn’t play, we played for him,” Rippen said.
Talon also had played football for the Broncos, and while that now was out of the question, he hoped he could return to the basketball court.
“We were all hopeful and he had told me just this last week he was so excited to get back to his recovery and get back on the court and start working out again to get into basketball shape,” Rippen said. “He wasn’t going to be able to lift weights that much, so we knew he wasn’t going to get that much stronger or bigger, but when you’re 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, there’s not a lot more you need to do. So his future was very bright. ... There’s no doubt in my mind you would have went on to play college basketball somewhere.”
Rippen learned of Talon’s death Sunday morning.
On Sunday evening, some of the basketball players, a couple of other students who were close to Talon and some parents came together. The coaches addressed the team and they formed a small support group.
“I think that was really good for everybody, I know it helped me a lot,” he said.
Moore opened the school on Sunday and said a number of parents and students came in to talk about their lost friend.
This morning’s funeral services were to be livestreamed from the school with the main gathering in the gym and overflow seating in the classrooms.
“I’ll miss him every day,” Rippen said. “As a coach you develop relationships with all the kids, but Talon will always hold a special place in my heart.
“We have a picture of him holding my little boy who is 1 year old. We’re actually going to get that framed and we’re going to put it up in Grayson’s room so he will always remember Talon. He will always hold a special place in my family’s heart. I definitely will miss him dearly.”