CLEMENT Leutcheu's death on Saturday came as a shock to close friends who are struggling to accept the fate that befell the former St. Benilde center.
The Cameroonian gentle giant, who is already based in Manila, suffered a heart attack early Saturday morning. He was only 25.
To those who got to know him, the world lost one of the purest souls you could ever meet in Leutcheu.
"He really cared for everyone around him and he always wanted what's best for all," said Blazers coach TY Tang.
Peers and foes alike described Leutcheu as someone who didn't hesitate to smile even after a hardly contested game.
"He was a nice guy, always a gentleman," said Gabby Velasco, the coach who recruited Leutcheu for St. Benilde.
Though Leutcheu may not be as good as his fellow foreign student-athletes like Ola Adeogun, Mike Nzeusseu, or Bright Akhuetie, it never stopped him from giving his all whenever he played on the court.
"He was such a great teammate and friend," said Anton Altamirano, a teammate of Leutcheu in his first year with the Blazers back in 2016.
Velasco agreed, noting, "He got along with everyone. He was a hardworker and never complained. He was very coachable and fiercely protective of the team."
But what set Leutcheu apart from the others is his dedication to education, bucking the conventional tropes of foreign student-athletes being branded as "mercenaries."
He put his quest for a college degree above everything else, friends said.
"He was so diligent when it comes to studying," shared Blazers assistant coach Paolo Layug. "There were times he'd miss our practices just because he needed to attend a class. He really loved to learn."
Leutcheu earned his Hotel and Restaurant Management degree last year.
After his graduation, the 6-foot-7 center was plotting to play overseas, a plan which Velasco recalled was the topic of the last conversations he had with Leutcheu.
"He was preparing himself to play in Europe. Thus, he continuously trained hard all throughout the lockdown until the present," he said.
Unfortunately, those dreams will have to remain as is now as we grieve this painful loss.
Rest in peace, Clement.