Torraine Sears a gentle giant who made massive impact
Irish basketball is in mourning following the death of Torraine Sears, one of the most popular players to grace a court across the Emerald Isle.
Born in Virginia, Torraine became an adopted Belfast man when he arrived here 25 years ago to join Star of the Sea, having played for Oldham Celtics in England along with former Star ace Scotty Summersgill.
He would go on to marry Belfast woman Teresa Canavan - daughter of top amateur boxing coach and official Sean.
Torraine, a 6ft 6' gentle giant, also played for Sligo All Stars and St Vincent's in Dublin in the All Ireland Superleague before going on to play for Star, while at the same time he put his degree in PE from Virginia State University to good use when appointed Head of PE and Sport at Woodlands College in Bangor.
While Torraine naturally caught the eye as a player, many will remember him as a passionate coach, working extremely hard with the Andersonstown Tigers underage programme and Basketball NI underage development teams, having also been player-coach for Star's Division One National League side.
Torraine's passion for basketball was always evident at Belfast Star's home games in the All Ireland Superleague and on a personal note it was always well worth picking his brains regarding how and why a game was developing in a certain manner.
A man with a great sense of humour, Torraine could make his critical observations with simple, clinical professionalism.
Belfast Star coach Neal McCotter was as shocked as anyone after hearing the news that Torraine had sadly passed away after a massive heart attack, just hours after taking a training session on Monday night.
Paying tribute to Torraine, Neal said: "Torraine was 'Mr laid back', he always had a big smile and talked with that great Virginia drawl - one of the real nice guys out there who was very giving of his time and knowledge and was very influential to many young basketball players in Northern Ireland.
"He was very generous with me, meeting me each morning at the QUB PEC when I was a young underage international, taking me through drills and weights sessions for nothing more than a thank you.
"I know he did the same with my brother Brian too, helping us to fulfill our potential."
Torraine is survived by wife Teresa and son Tori.