The lasting memories for all who knew Homestead sophomore Kim Nuestro will no doubt include her smile, something she carried with her everywhere, especially on the basketball court, one of her greatest passions in life.
This past Saturday, her greatest passion turned tragic, when Nuestro collapsed while playing in an AAU basketball game at Mission College in Santa Clara. The young student-athlete, who had recently celebrated her 16th birthday on April 21, immediately stopped breathing after collapsing on the sideline. Paramedics and other qualified personnel were already in the gym, and resuscitation efforts were started right away, while emergency vehicles were dispatched to the site. Unfortunately, the on-site efforts, and later the efforts at two different medical centers proved futile.
Despite her passing, which occurred officially on Sunday after being transferred to Stanford Medical Center, Nuestro’s best qualities continue to resonate louder than ever with her family and those who knew her best.
“She was a fighter, but always had that smile on her face,” said Kim’s father, Ramir. “She was that way all the way until the end.”
The official cause of death for Nuestro will be determined later by an autopsy, with many questions still to be answered. With roughly eight minutes left in her game on Saturday, she fell to the ground and hit her head. After coming out of the game and icing, she convinced coaches to put her back in the game. After a minute back in the game, however, she came back out and collapsed on the sideline. Her distress was immediately noticeable, and response occurred quickly.
The Most Valuable Player and team captain of Homestead’s junior varsity squad this past season, Nuestro averaged nearly 13 points per game, and led the Mustangs to an 11-1 record in league play, good enough for a league title at the lower level. That performance came as no surprise to her family.
“She is a winner, someone who worked hard in sports and in school,” Ramir commented. “She was a humble leader. But she also brought lots of excitement and a winning attitude.”
One of the stories that developed from Nuestro’s passing started on Sunday, when Ramir returned home and saw his daughter’s Steph Curry shoes sitting out in her room. It had been one of her dreams to get her shoes signed by Curry. In the wake of her passing, Ramir decided to reach out to his daughter’s favorite player, and try to fulfill her dream posthumously.
The social media campaign #signforkim became viral in the next 24 hours, after someone got ahold of a private message sent by Ramir to Curry. Tuesday morning, Ramir got a phone call from a friend, telling him that Curry had requested the shoes be dropped off at the Oakland training facility, where he would sign them when he arrived for practice.
“All the pain we have been experiencing, it was suddenly gone when I got that phone call,” Ramir explained. “It was due to all those people out there who cared enough about Kim to make this happen.”
The outpouring of support is no surprise as those closest to Kim begin to describe someone who was a unique blend of outgoing personality, fierce competitor, and humble demeanor.
“Kim loved the game of basketball, always ready and eager to practice, and she played the game with so much joy. But she was a fierce competitor and hated to lose," said Chris Cedro, who coached her for four years prior to high school. “She was also humble, rarely celebrating anything good she did on the court. Instead, she celebrated her teammates’ good play. Kim led with her actions and served as the rock on the teams she played on. She carried this trait off the court with her family and friends.”
Twice before, Nuestro had fainting episodes after physical exercise. The family took every precaution, sending Kim to multiple doctors, getting all possible tests, including EKG and MRI exams. She was cleared for physical activity, with the primary precaution given to keep her hydrated.
“She loved to play basketball,” said Ramir. “The doctors told us to keep her hydrated, that she should be okay.”
Those words are now of little consolation to the family, who has lost a young woman described by people across social media as “a beautiful angel” and “a great kid” by those who knew her.
“We need to take care of our kids,” said Kim’s father, allowing for a brief moment the distraught emotion over losing a child to edge into his voice. “We need to do something to protect our kids who are active.”
Nuestro is survived by a younger sister, Makayla, who played with Kim on the Mustangs’ junior varsity team this past season and was the team’s third-leading scorer. In a mid-season win over Los Gatos, the two sisters were the only two players to score in double figures, combining for 24 points. She is also survived by a 20-year old sister who currently attends Chico State, and a five-year old brother.
“Basketball was a family thing for us,” Ramir commented. “The three of us (Kim and Makayla) would go down to practice and shoot together in the evenings. It was something we loved to do together.”
Homestead High has a small memorial dedicated to Kim’s life in front of the school’s ASB office this week, where students have been able to drop off photos, flowers, or cards to honor her memory.