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City hoops community mourns Rasul Butler

February 2, 2018 GMT

The Philadelphia basketball community suffered a devastating loss when former Roman Catholic, La Salle and NBA standout Rasual Butler and his wife were killed in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Los Angeles.

According to the Associated Press, the crash happened around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 in Studio City, leaving a swath of damage along a major thoroughfare. Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said the 38-year-old Butler and the 31-year-old Leah LaBelle Vladowski were pronounced dead at the scene.

“This is a real tragedy to the La Salle community and to all who knew Rasual,” said Bill Bradshaw, La Salle’s director of athletics in a statement. “He was a terrific basketball player, a great teammate and a wonderful person. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of Rasual and his wife, Leah.”

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Butler, a member of the Explorers from 1998-2002, finished his college career with an impressive 2,125 points, which ranks fourth in school history behind former National Players of the Year Lionel Simmons, Tom Gola and Michael Brooks. He was also a two-time first team All-Atlantic 10 selection.

In his junior season, Butler averaged 22.1 points per game to tie for the league lead in scoring.

In his senior year, the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 20.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. He was named to the A-10’s All-Tournament Team after helping La Salle defeat top-seeded Temple in the quarterfinals. Butler was inducted into the La Salle Hall of Athletes in 2008.

After a brilliant college career, Butler was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat.

“This is beyond a sad day for the Miami Heat Family,” team President Pat Riley said in a statement. “Rasual was one of the greatest people we have ever had to play for us; a great player, teammate and better person.”

He went on to have a lengthy 14-year career that included stints with the Heat, New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs.

Butler played at two different times with the Clippers, in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Minnesota Timberwolves guard and former Clipper Jamal Crawford tweeted, “Damn this one hurts! RIP Rasual Butler & his wife Leah. Sounds so cliche, but Rasual was really one of the good ones!!”

Lynn Greer, a former Engineering & Science and Temple basketball star, played in the Sonny Hill League with Butler. Greer also competed against Butler in those Big 5 matchups between Temple and La Salle.

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“I always looked at him as a brother,” Greer said. “We shared so many memories throughout the years. It hurts to see the tragedy yesterday. It’s really sad. Rasual was just a great person. He always generous.”

Butler was an All-Catholic League standout at Roman Catholic High School. He completed his scholastic career with 1,237 points.

Former Sonny Hill League coach Tee Shields remembers watching Butler play during the early years of his basketball career.

“We had him when he was like 13-14-years-old down at the league,” Shields said. “He could always shoot. He was always a team player.”

Butler’s wife had some success as an R&B singer. She finished 12th in the third season of “American Idol” in 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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