Former Florida Gators center Dwayne Schintzius has passed away after an extensive battle with a rare form of leukemia. He was 43 years old.
The Tampa Tribune reported Sunday evening that Schintzius passed away from respiratory failure while surrounded by family Sunday afternoon at the Moffitt Cancer Center.
He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 12, 2010 from his brother Travis, and his father told the Tribune on March 3 that doctors were “very optimistic” he would make a full recovery after declaring him “leukemia-free.” Schintzius declared himself cancer-free in July of that year and said that his extensive fight for survival gave him a new perspective on life.
“There was a time when I just fell on my bed and cried and said, ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve leukemia?’” he said at the time. “But then it became, ‘OK, time to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I’ve got work to do. I’ve got to beat this.’ And that’s what I emphasized to all the doctors. ‘OK, what are you going to hit me with next? Let’s go.’ I wanted to give everything I had.
“You’ve got to enjoy every day you’re on this planet. I never knew there were so many people who cared about me. I’d tell anybody to tell people you love them and make up with the ones who you feel have done you wrong. Relationships keep you going. They kept me going. I never felt alone.”
He had a second bone marrow transplant this year but complications following the procedure coupled with the chronic myelomonocytic leukemia he had been suffering from eventually led to his death.
Schintzius, the sixth all-time leading scorer (1,624 points) in Florida history and the Gators’ career blocks leader, made his first appearance at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in 21 years on Feb. 24, 2011 as Florida defeated Georgia 71-62.
“Wasn’t sure if I felt right about it or [if] people would want me back. I do like coming back and I want to come back again,” he said during his visit, referencing some of his off-the-court issues including allegedly hitting a student with a tennis racket and quitting on the team well before his senior season was over. “I’m very proud to be a Gator. I feel like I helped start something. I don’t want to call it ‘The House That Dwayne Built,’ because that’s not true. I helped to build it. Makes me feel good where the program has come.”
Schintzius remains the only player in SEC history to register more than 1,000 points, 800 blocks, 250 assists and 250 blocks. He also helped lead UF to the team’s first three NCAA Tournament appearances. Upon leaving the Gators, he was drafted with the No. 24 overall pick of the 1990 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs and spent nine years with six different teams in the league.
Many sports fans recognize Schintzius from appearances he made on both the big and small screens. He was a Russian center for the New York Knicks in the movie “Eddie” and played himself on an episode of “Arli$$” on HBO.
Schintzius is the second former Gators student-athlete to pass away this week. Former Florida running back Tony Waters was shot and killed on Friday morning.
OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Schintzius family.