E.A. Sports Today

Just waiting

Weaver’s Heath anxiously waiting for a doctor’s clearance — that could come any day — so he can get back on the court with his teammates

Weaver senior guard Jalen Heath (center) watches the action unfold in Thursday's game with Pleasant Valley from a coach's perspective as he awaits medical clearance to return to action.

Weaver senior guard Jalen Heath (center) watches the action unfold in Thursday’s game with Pleasant Valley from a coach’s perspective as he awaits medical clearance to return to action.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Jalen Heath sat in his coach’s seat on the Weaver basketball bench Thursday night wanting to be anywhere but there.

What he really wanted was to be “out there with my brothers on the court doing what we love to do,” which in Thursday’s case was playing ball and battling Pleasant Valley in a game with major area tournament implications.

Instead, he and the Bearcats were waiting for a phone call from the doctor clearing the 5-foot-11 senior guard for a return to the court after what has become the longest and most frightening week of his life.

A week ago Thursday he felt as if his chest was going to explode, the result of a skyrocketing enzyme imbalance that affected the muscles around his heart. The pain was so intense he feared death and was hospitalized two days before he could finally rejoin his team in street clothes.

He didn’t have a heart attack, tests confirmed, but he continues to be closely monitored. Including Thursday’s 74-53 victory that put the Bearcats in position for a shot to host their area tournament, he has missed the last three and a half games.

He hopes to return tonight against Saks, but even that’s not soon enough to suit him.

“I’m hanging in there, I’ll be all right,” he said confidently Thursday night. “I’m just ready to get back on the court. Coach knows I’m hard-headed and it’s hard to keep me off the floor.

“This week has been very, very long without basketball. Even the practices. I try to get out there with my team, and coach tells me to sit down. He knows it’s frustrating me.”

Heath would be out on the court if he could. Last year he broke his nose against White Plains and refused to come out of the game. The next day he got it fixed and continued to play.

“Jalen doesn’t have a heart problem when it comes to competition; that’s not his issue ever,” Bearcats coach Daryl Hamby said. “When he complains, I listen.”

Heath said he felt something was wrong even before he took the floor that night against Sacred Heart, but he remained silent because he wanted to play against the top-ranked 1A Cardinals and didn’t want to let his team down.

But it became clear something was off when he tried to take a jumper in the game and couldn’t lift his arms. He immediately came to the bench, felt dizzy and lost feeling in his arms and legs.

He didn’t play the second half and agonized in silence, so not to let on to his teammates, but once he got down to the locker room after the game he couldn’t contain his suffering any longer.

“I thought I was actually about to lose my life,” he said. “That’s the first time I’d ever felt anything like that before. I feel like I’m pretty tough, so I could withstand stuff, but I couldn’t withstand that, so I was very, very scared.”

Hamby was summoned to the dressing room, where he immediately collected Heath and instead of waiting on an ambulance rushed straight to Regional Medical Center, where they were met by Heath’s father. He later was admitted to the hospital in Jacksonville where he stayed two days.

“When a young man’s playing basketball complaining about chest pain, I’m like we’re gonna go,” Hamby said. “It made everything else, like, who cares; I’m not thinking about that game anymore. I think of them like they’re my own and I’m going to see they get taken care of.”

Since being released from the hospital Heath has traveled with the team to every game; now he’s just waiting to be released by his doctors. Hamby said the Bearcats could have used Heath’s double-digit scoring average and defense against the Raiders Thursday night, but he’s more concerned about the player’s long-term recovery.

He’s confident the player will return. It’s just a matter of getting the phone call. Heath is literally waiting by the phone.

“I want to play so bad it’s crazy,” he said. “I want to play tonight, but coach said I should just do what the doctors tell me.

“My parents told me, everybody tells me, I should just take it easy. I’m going to just do what I’ve got to do to stay healthy and when I get the call I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to work my way back into the lineup.”

Weaver 73, Pleasant Valley 54

WEAVER – Delo Forbes 3 6-6 14, Craig Copeland 5 0-2 13, Paul Hubbard 1 2-2 4, R.J. Wooden 2 0-0 4, Maurice Goodman 2 0-1 5, Gio Mosley 4 2-4 10, Malik Arnold 8 3-5 19, Ducky Morris 0 0-0 0, London Knight 2 1-1 5, Dalton Hamby 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 14-21

PLEASANT VALLEY — Josh Preston 1 0-0 2, Dakota Jones 2 2-2 7, Caden Turner 0 0-0 0, Riley Vernon 0 2-2 2, Britton Proper 0 0-1 0, Marshall Smith 5 0-3 11, Josh Faucett 6 4-6 17, Reid Hightower 3 0-1 6, Nick Robbins 0 0-1 0, Jordan Lambert 0 0-0 0, Chase Craven 3 1-3 7. Totals: 20 9-19 54.

Weaver 13 19 20 21 — 73
Pleasant Valley 13 12 12 17 — 54

3-point goals: Weaver 5 (Forbes 2, Copeland 2, Goodman); Pleasant Valley 3 (Faucett, Smith, Jones). Fouled out: Morris. Total fouls: Weaver 19, Pleasant Valley 14. Officials: Brewster, Maske, Calkins.



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