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Former Pitt basketball star Demetreus Gore dies at 54

Former Pitt assistant John Calipari: "His smile lit up every room, and his style of basketball lit up every arena"

The Pitt men’s basketball program lost one of the players responsible for its rise to prominence under Paul Evans in the late 1980s, as Demetreus Gore reportedly died of a heart attack over the weekend at the age of 54.

Alby Oxenreiter of WPXI was the first member of the media to report the news of Gore's death. It was later confirmed by Charles Smith, Gore’s former teammate at Pitt.

“Today, I received a text that my college teammate Demetreus Gore died of a heart attack while working out in a gym,” Smith said. “I just spoke to him this past Thursday. It felt like I got sucker punched in the gut. It was his play and attitude that made us who we were. Rest in peace, brother.”

Gore committed to Pitt in May 1984, capping off what then-Pitt coach Roy Chipman called his best recruiting year ever at the time. The Detroit native joined Smith in coming to Pitt from out of state, and then-Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo was impressed with the duo.

“Charlie Smith is literally one of the best players in the ... no, I really shouldn’t put Charlie ahead of Demetreus,” Carlesimo told Tom Wheatley of the Pittsburgh Press. “They’re both bona fide All-Americans.”

Prior to arriving in Pittsburgh, the 6’5”, 210-pound shooting guard averaged 33 points and 12 rebounds per game as a senior at Chadsey High School. As a result of his standout play, Gore left the Motor City in 1984 as Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, preceding NBA star Glen Rice as the recipient of the award. He was one of just two Michigan Mr. Basketball honorees to attend college out of state in the 1980s.

At Pitt, Gore would complement Smith as a key member of the Panthers offense. He kicked off his career with an eight-point, three-steal game against St. Francis, a team Pitt would defeat 104-88. But even with the modest stat line, Gore quickly endeared himself to fans at the Fitzgerald Field House with three dunks.

Gore would be named Rookie of the Week on Dec. 16, 1984, after scoring 15 points in Pitt’s 84-65 win over West Virginia, and he would finish his freshman season with an average of 9.2 points per game. In addition, Pitt would make the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years in 1985 thanks in large part to Gore and Smith. However, the team would fall to Karl Malone and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in a 78-54 loss in the first round.

In his sophomore campaign, Gore made a statement, as he surpassed Smith as Pitt’s scoring leader, with 466 points in 29 games for an average of 16.1 per game. The team would backslide to a 15-14 record and miss the tournament, but Gore and Smith would both earn third-team All-Big East honors. And over the next two seasons, Gore would help a loaded Panthers team earn back-to-back Big East championships and go 49-15.

All told, Gore finished his Pitt career as a member of Pitt’s 1,000-point club, and he still ranks 16th in program history in scoring, with 1,555 points between 1984 and 1988. He would be selected by the Tulsa Fast Breakers in the fourth round of the Continental Basketball Association draft in 1988 and would play for Henry Bibby in Tulsa into the early 1990s.

As news of Gore’s death spread on Sunday, former teammates and coaches such as ex-Pitt assistant John Calipari and former Pitt shooting guard Jason Matthews shared their memories of Gore. Matthews credited Gore with taking him under his wing as an underclassman at Pitt, and Calipari reminisced about Gore’s personality and style of play.

"Demetreus was at Pitt when I was an assistant coach and made my transition so much easier," Calipari said of his former player. "His smile lit up every room, and his style of basketball lit up every arena."