The Blog Squad

Friday, October 12, 2007

Keeping The Game Alive

In the early morning of Feb. 8, 1996, Antonio Daniels heard a knock on his door. It was Bowling Green basketball coach Jim Larranaga and assistant Stan Heath.

The coaches entered with an ominous glazed look. Something was terribly wrong. They told Antonio that his mother would call him soon, but they wouldn’t tell him why.

The trio sat in silence for five minutes. Two knowing the truth. One swallowing hard and imagining the worse.

Then it came. The phone seemed to ring louder this time.

Antonio’s mother told him that his older brother by a year, Chris, had died minutes earlier from a heart attack. Chris was just 21.

Larranaga stayed with Antonio for hours. They cried. They prayed. Player clung on to coach and asked why. There were no answers.

Chris was a 6-10, 238-pound fifth-year senior who played center for the University of Dayton. He had earned a degree in communication management and was pursuing a second in sociology.

According to published reports, Chris experienced convulsions at his off-campus home at 4 a.m. He was admitted to the hospital an hour later in full cardiac arrest and efforts to resuscitate him failed.

He was pronounced dead at 5:31 a.m. Antonio received the call from him mother around 6 a.m.

Chris had developed into one of the better big men in the nation. He averaged 12.9 points and 6 rebounds. He was second in the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting 67.9 percent of his shots.

“It changed my attitude toward the way I think about life and the game of basketball,” Antonio says on his Web site. “It makes you cherish the time that you have here and cherish those you have here also. Once you get attached to someone so much, and then something like that happens, it’s just like a big piece has been torn from your heart.”

Two days later, Antonio decided to play against nationally ranked Eastern Michigan. It was a day that the brothers had circled on the calendar.

“I know that if my brother hadn’t been planning to come to that game I probably wouldn’t have played,” Antonio writes on his Web site.

Bowling Green fans will never forget the outcome. Antonio, a point guard, hit an off-balanced layup with four seconds left to give the Falcons a 72-70 victory.

Much of what Antonio Daniels does today is a tribute to his brother. He developed his game and was drafted into the NBA. He’s now a member of the Washington Wizards, which spent their training camp at Siegel Center on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

Antonio thought of his brother recently when teammate Etan Thomas underwent successful open heart surgery to repair a leak of the aortic valve. The irregularity was discovered during a routine physical before the start of training camp. It’s likely Thomas will never play in the NBA again.

Antonio wondered aloud to the Associated Press whether the stress test, which involves a heart check after running on a treadmill, could have saved Chris’ life. Other Wizards added that Thomas’ condition shows the necessity of having regular checkups.

The University of Dayton basketball team still honors Chris by giving a Most Improved Player Award in his name after each season. Larranaga moved on to George Mason and led the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006. Antonio enters his 11th season with career averages of 7.9 points and 3.3 assists. He wears No. 6 for the Wizards—his brother’s No. 33 added together.

I know skinny jeans will be the death of me. My wife bought my daughter a pair and the two year old wore them last weekend. With high heels. With a tiara. With two Dora temporary tattoos. No joke. While my wife thought our daughter looked cute, I saw my life flash before me.

You might remember this link from a previous post.

Of course you knew there would be imitations. And another.


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