Redondo High basketball standout Ryse Williams came down with what he thought was a cold about a month ago. He didn’t think much of it at the time and continued to hit the gym daily, training for what was supposed to be his freshman season at Loyola Marymount this fall. But the 18-year-old’s illness didn’t go away; it only got worse. He landed in the hospital where Redondo basketball Coach Victor Martin told the Daily Breeze (Torrance, California) Williams first learned his “cold” was actually a rare form of cancer that spread to his lungs and liver.

On Thursday, just a day before he was set to graduate, Williams died. By the time medical staff at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles attempted to treat Williams with chemotherapy, his cancer, the type of which has not been released, had already progressed to stage IV. No treatment could save him.

“We’re all sad and shocked,” Athletic Director Andy Saltsman told the newspaper.

“He’s unbelievably tough to have this cancer in his body all this time,” Martin added.

It’s unclear when Williams learned he had cancer. In a text message exchange from June 12 that one of his former high school classmates shared on Twitter on Thursday, Williams wrote he had “some infection or virus” that had “spread through my lungs kidney and liver.”

When University of Kansas commit Billy Preston asked him if he was all right, Williams remained optimistic: “I’m getting better fam,” he said, though noting he’d been in the ICU since he was admitted to the hospital on June 8.

That Williams remained optimistic likely doesn’t come as a surprise to his friends, family or coaches.

“[He’s] Just a great young man,” Saltsman told the Daily Breeze. “He obviously was a great basketball player, and he was a true leader for the team, but he was an even better person.”

In a short essay he posted to Twitter, Redondo junior point guard Caleb Christopher said he looked toward Williams as a brother.

“At times, basketball didn’t matter, we were just having fun enjoying life,” he said. “Ryse was the first to show me the true meaning of style, fashion and creating your own wave. And watch how others follow. … And if you had Ryse you had a friend no matter what. He hung out with everybody … always dancing and smiling.”

Williams earned the respect of both his teammates and opponents on and off the court. Named 2017 Bay League Most Valuable Player, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior averaged 20 points and five rebounds a game, leading Redondo to its fifth straight Bay League title and a spot in the Southern Section Open Division playoffs, where the team would eventually bounce out in the second round, according to USA Today.

Outside of high school, Williams played for the Cal Supreme AAU program on the Nike EYBL circuit, where he faced off against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal’s son Shareef, who was one of many to express his shock and condolences at Williams’s unexpected death:

R.I.P TO MY BIG BRO RYSE I’m heartbroken, seems like the other day we were just at cal supreme practice pic.twitter.com/2Nqc7X4aRj

– Shareef O’Neal (@cynreef) June 22, 2017

I wear ryse’s cal supreme jersey #11 , I got to put on and show out for you now bro #RIPRYSE

– Shareef O’Neal (@cynreef) June 22, 2017

Redondo principal Jens Brandt informed the school on Thursday of Williams’s death, sending a letter to the students and their families, noting the school planned to do something special to remember Williams during Friday’s graduation ceremony.

Students at Redondo didn’t wait to show their respects, however, as they set up a memorial outside of Redondo’s school gymnasium and later held a candlelight vigil.

Officials from Loyola Marymount, where Williams verbally committed to last July and signed his letter of intent in November, also reacted to Williams’s death.

“I send my heartfelt sympathy on behalf of our program and my staff to the family of Ryse,” Lions Coach Mike Dunlap said in a statement. “As good of a basketball player as he was, it was his personality and character that stood above all.”

“You never want to hear of a young person who is unable to fully make his mark on the world,” Loyola Marymount Athletic Director William Husak added. “On behalf of the Athletics Department and Loyola Marymount University, we send our condolences and support to the Williams family and the men’s basketball community.”