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Pennsylvania university women’s basketball player choked to death on gum, in sleep

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Posted at 1:05 AM, Jan 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-21 01:16:30-05

TORONTO, Canada -- A Pennsylvania College basketball player was found dead Sunday, and police say she choked on chewing gum in her sleep.

The 21-year-old Toronto native Shanice Clark was following her dream of playing basketball in the United States. She was found dead around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

Her family said Clark accidentally choked on chewing gum in her sleep in her dorm at California University of Pennsylvania.

"Her mom called me and she was crying,” said Cleveland Clunis, Clark’s former coach. “I didn't believe her. It was so difficult to believe that."

Clark graduated from Cedarbrae Collegiate back in 2011. Then she got a basketball scholarship to play at Santa Fe College in Florida. Two year later, she transferred to California University, where the talented player had received another scholarship.

Clunis, who runs a not-for-profit basketball program, started coaching the 6-foot tall Clark when she was 12-years-old. “She was motivated and she trained hard.”

Vayga Clunis played right alongside her friend for half a decade.

"Every single camp she was right beside me. Basketball teams in the state. Everything."

"She was my Shaq, I called her,” added Vayga. “My Shaquille O’Neal."

And what makes friends and family particularly sad is that the young woman who dreamed of being a broadcaster is making her television debut like this.

"Not only does she have skill,” said Vayga. “But she's also skill with a good personality... smart... beautiful.”

“She had everything. So its just like wow. Like all that's gone,” she said.