Longwood alumnus and former basketball great Jerome Kersey passed away Wednesday. He was 52.

Kersey is widely regarded as Longwood basketball’s most prominent graduate, starring for the Lancers in their Division II era from 1981-84 before embarking on a 17-year NBA career. He played with six different NBA franchises, including 11 with the Portland TrailBlazers who drafted him in the second round of the 1984 draft.

"Jerome embodied the ideal of the citizen-leadership at the heart of Longwood’s mission," Longwood president W. Taylor Reveley IV said. "His athletic accomplishments are well noted, but what made him special was his commitment to serving his community. He devoted his life to serving those around him until the very day of his passing. That Jerome returned to Longwood to complete his degree in 2006 after spending nearly two decades in the NBA speaks volumes of his character. We are proud to have called him a Lancer."

"The news of Jerome Kersey’s passing is devastating," Longwood director of athletics Troy Austin said. "Jerome was a genuinely warm-hearted and kind person, and he fully embraced his role as an ambassador for Longwood. He played bigger than his size on the hardwood and carried that passion into his everyday life. The Longwood community has truly lost a legend."

Kersey was selected to receive the 2015 recipient of the William Henry Ruffner Alumni Award, the highest and most prestigious award given to Longwood alumni, in March. It recognizes alumni who have achieved success and national distinction in both their personal and professional lives, embodying the concept of citizen leadership. The award will be presented posthumously at the ceremony.

Kersey was a two-time All-American at Longwood who averaged 17.0 points and 11.3 rebounds during a four-year career as a starter. He was the 1984 Division II National Player of the Year as a senior after averaging 19.6 points and a NCAA-leading 14.2 rebounds per game. During his tenure, he set the school’s all-time records for points, rebounds, rebounding average, made field goals, made free throws, free throw attempts, steals and blocks.

Following his collegiate career, Kersey was drafted with the 46th overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Portland TrailBlazers. He would spend his next 11 seasons in Portland, quickly assuming a starting role for a Portland franchise that reached the NBA Finals twice during his tenure. He won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 and retired from the game after the 2000-01 season. He ranks second all-time in TrailBlazer history with 831 career games played and 5,078 rebounds, third with 21,400 minutes and 1,059 steals and fifth with 10,067 points.

After retirement, Kersey went on to hold positions as the Director of Player Programs for the TrailBlazers (2003-04) and as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks (2004-05). At the time of his passing, he was a Blazer Ambassador, a part-time community relations position with his former team, a health coach for Take Shape for Life and as director of player development for Kuri Productions, Inc.

Kersey was a member of the inaugural Longwood Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 and has his jersey number 54 retired in Willett Hall. He was also inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame on April 26, 2008, and into the Portland Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 25, 2008. He returned to Longwood as commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2009.

Kersey is survived by his daughter Kiara, his wife Teri and her children McKenzie, Brendan and Maddie.

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