The darkest moment of Ryan Frantz's life came on an unseasonably warm and sunny late-autumn morning.
Dec. 10, 2010, began as a normal Friday at the Kerr Fitness Center on the campus of La Roche College in Pittsburgh with coach Scott Lang directing a practice in preparation for the next day's game against Penn State-Behrend.
"He was running with the big guys just like he always did," said Frantz, a Niles graduate and LRC freshman at the time. "We happened to have a water break right after and he asked for some water. He was at midcourt and took a knee. His chest was pounding and he wanted some air. Then, he just sort of laid down slowly.
"That was it for him."
Lang, 41, the Redhawks coach for 14 years, died of a heart attack.
"It was probably one of the saddest moments in my life," Frantz said, "if not the saddest."
LA ROCHE COLLEGE
Alma Mater: Niles, 2010
Major: Marketing and Communications
The skinny: Broke his own school record with nine 3-pointers in a game this year. ... Was third in the nation for 3-point percentage in 2012. ... Helped the Redhawks to an Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship.
If not for Lang's encouragement a few months earlier, Frantz likely wouldn't have ended up at the NCAA Division III school with a student population of 1,400.
Herman Carmichael, the current La Roche head coach and assistant at the time, was in Boardman scouting a Poland player at the Division II high school basketball district tournament in March of 2010. The Bulldogs were playing the Red Dragons.
"During the game Ryan would show glimpses of amazing plays," Carmichael said, "but he would also show glimpses of someone that was out of control."
The next night, Lang went to Boardman.
"I get a call at 9:45 p.m. and it's Coach Lang all upset because I didn't tell him about this Ryan Frantz kid," Carmichael said. "I said, 'Coach, we knew he was good, but we also knew he was going to drive you nuts with some of the stuff he does on the floor.'
"His response was, 'Hermie, I don't care what he does because I've been in the gym for over two hours and he hasn't missed a shot all night.' "
Frantz is still Niles' all-time leading scorer with more than 1,000 points. In his sophomore season at La Roche, he was third in the nation in 3-point percentage at 52 percent, leading the country at one point. Frantz also broke a school record, held by Carmichael, actually, for 3-pointers in a game with eight. As a junior, he beat that with nine in a Jan. 30 game at Mt. Aloysius.
"It was a must-win game because they were at the top of the conference with us," Frantz said. "I was just hitting. I wanted to prove to my coaches that I could have a big game because I was struggling a bit earlier (in the season)."
Frantz finished with 31 points in the 94-78 win. The Redhwaks finished the year with a 17-10 record and won the league's regular season title before advancing to the Eastern College Athletic Conference semifinal. Frantz was in the league's top 10 for 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made.
Jimmy Hawley, a 2012 Brookfield graduate, also plays basketball for La Roche.
"He's one of my best friends now," Frantz said. "He's got a lot of potential."
To open the season, Frantz drilled 15-straight 3s in the team's annual 'Midnight Madness' event. The 21-year old primarily is used as the Redhawks' back up two-guard. He entered the program as a point guard and is fighting for a starting spot in his senior year.
"I'm starting to become a better passer and less selfish," Frantz said. "I still hang around the 3-ball too much. I need to get to the free-throw line more."
He's a marketing and communications major who hopes to stay in the Pittsburgh area after graduation.
"No matter what goes on with our year and Ryan's senior year, he will go down as one of the best pure shooters this program has seen over the last 20 years," Carmichael said.