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Former Butler standout Joel Cornette dies at age 35

Former Butler basketball player Joel Cornette has died of natural causes at the age of 35, his family announced to the university early Tuesday morning.

The Cook County coroner said Cornette was found dead in a Chicago apartment at 1:02 a.m. Tuesday. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

"This morning, we spoke with the Cornette family, who has confirmed that their beloved son and brother, Joel, passed away early this morning due to natural causes," a statement issued by Butler University said. "They are shocked and devastated by this news. The Butler family also mourns the loss of one of our favorite Bulldogs. Additional information will be released by the Cornette family as it becomes available. Please join us in keeping the Cornette family in your thoughts and prayers."

Cornette, who graduated from Butler in 2003, recorded 1,100 points, 712 rebounds and 144 blocks as he helped lead the Bulldogs to three NCAA tournament appearances in his four seasons. Butler had a 100-30 record in Cornette's four seasons.

Former Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens, now with the Celtics, remembered his former player on Twitter.

Cornette grew up in Cincinnati and starred at St. Xavier High School before arriving at Butler, where he made the conference all-defensive team three times and earned second-team all-conference honors as a senior in 2002-03.

He might be best known for his soaring dunk off a rebound in the closing seconds to beat Indiana 66-64 in 2001. The Bulldogs' victory ended Indiana's 39-game win streak in the Hoosier Classic.

"Joel was the consummate team-first teammate," Butler AD Barry Collier told ESPN. "He played an important role as a leader and believer of his teammates and the Butler Way. His spirit and confidence carried the team in his time as a Bulldog. Gone too early, may he rest in peace. We are praying for his family."

After graduating in 2003, Cornette returned to the program as director of basketball operations in 2006-07. The next year, he followed coach Todd Lickliter to Iowa.

"Words can't express what Joel meant to my family, Butler, Indianapolis, basketball and probably anyone he's ever encountered," said Lickliter, now a scout for the Celtics. "The only negative I can think of is that he made it very difficult to coach others because he set a bar that was incredible, a standard that was so high. He did things that only winners do."

Cornette coached with the Hawkeyes for three seasons, then joined Priority Sports & Entertainment as the director of basketball recruiting in 2012.

"Joel was more than just an agent to me," former Wisconsin star and current NBA player Sam Dekker wrote on Twitter. "He was an awesome man and unreal friend."

Said Priority Sports CEO Mark Bartelstein to ESPN: "He was as good a teammate as you will ever find. The best way I'd describe Joel is like a German shepherd. He was loyal beyond belief and always had your back -- in business and in life. He was a gentle giant, a big man who had the biggest heart. Our business was such a better place from the day we brought him in."

For the Bulldogs, it is yet another sad chapter in what has been a difficult year. In January, former center Andrew Smith died after a long battle with cancer. He was 25. Less than a month later, Emerson Kampen's 6-month-old son died from a genetic disorder that affects the central nervous system. Kampen, a former Butler player and a close friend of Smith's, was the team's basketball analyst and video coordinator.

ESPN's Andy Katz, Jeff Goodman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.