UMass hoop star Camby collapses
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/15/1996
Globe correspondent John Anderson contributed to this report.
OLEAN, N.Y. – Marcus Camby, the best player on the top-ranked University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, was admitted for observation into Olean General Hospital last night, where he remained alert and conscious and in stable condition after collapsing minutes before the tipoff of yesterday's Atlantic 10 conference game against St. Bonaventure.
The episode came just five days after the death of UMass swimmer Greg Menton, who died of cardiac dysrhythmia during a swim meet at Dartmouth Jan. 9.
“All this is a little mind-boggling,” said UMass sports information director Bill Strickland. “It's been a rough week. To see Marcus go down like that, there are things running through your mind, and they're not very pleasant things.”
UMass coach John Calipari, who missed yesterday's 65-52 victory after he rode in the ambulance and stayed at the hospital with his stricken star, said Camby underwent a battery of tests, which all proved negative, and will undergo more testing this morning before he is released. Camby will join his teammates, who visited him in the hospital yesterday afternoon before busing to Buffalo, where they spent the night, for today's 11 a.m. return flight.
“They've eliminated probably 100 things by doing the tests,” said Calipari in a short meeting with the media in the hospital lobby last night. “They don't have exactly the reason for the collapse and they want to do more tests before they commit to anything. But he will stay overnight for observation.
“He wanted to go back with the team,” Calipari added, “but we, along with the physicians at the hospital, encouraged him that it was best for him to stay.”
Donna Oehman, the attending emergency room physician, declined to comment on Camby's condition, deferring all questions to UMass officials. UMass trainer Ron Laham, who accompanied Calipari to the hospital, indicated Camby was given an electrocardiogram and a CAT scan.
“Preliminary indications are that both tests went well,” Laham said.
Calipari said Camby had been suffering from a chest cold and, according to Laham, was taking some Robitussin cough medicine. During pregame warmups at the Reilly Center, Camby became light-headed and walked off the court on his own. The junior center from Hartford attempted to make his way to the UMass locker room, where the coaches were huddled, when he collapsed in a hallway near the court.
“We were all in the locker room and didn't see it,” said a pensive Calipari as he sat with Laham in the waiting area of the hospital's emergency room shortly after Camby's arrival. ”Donta Bright came running in and told us to hurry out into the hallway because Marcus had gone down.“
“I was standing next to him in the hallway and he was kind of holding his head and the side of his face when he just suddenly fell,” said Bright after yesterday's game. “As soon as it happened, I ran out and got word back to one of the coaches and one of the trainers.
“I was scared.”
The incident brought to mind the episode two years ago when former UMass guard Mike Williams collapsed on the floor during a game at Cincinnati. After an extensive battery of tests revealed no cardiac problems, Williams was cleared to play two weeks later with doctors saying it was most probably “a common faint in association with a mild respiratory infection and dehydration.”
Yesterday, however, no one was willing to make a definitive statement about the reason for Camby's collapse.
“We just know that he's fine now and the preliminary indications are that all the tests went well,” said Laham. “He's looking and feeling much better now.”
Laham, who credited the quick response of St. Bonaventure's team physician and trainer along with local emergency medical technicians, said when he arrived at Camby's side the player was semiconscious.
“He didn't look too responsive,” Laham said. “He looked like he was kind of out there. He didn't recognize us at first, but when we got him to the hospital he came around and recognized Coach Calipari and myself and was alert and conscious. But he looks much better now than when we brought him in.”
Mark Belli, an EMT with the Allegheny Volunteer Fire Department, said it took eight men to load the 6-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Camby into the ambulance “because we didn't want to bend him in any way,” he said.
“It usually only takes two or three people to get someone in an ambulance,” Belli said. “He was semiconscious and not very alert. Coach Calipari was in the ambulance before we got Camby loaded. He was very nervous and wasn't concerned about the game.”
In fact, Camby seemed to be the only person who was concerned about the outcome of the game.
“He was in the CAT scan and he was asking about the score of the game,” said nursing supervisor Raye Green. “I told him it was halftime and UMass was up by 9.”
After the Minutemen visited Camby in the hospital, Calipari, who stayed in Olean last night along with Laham, evaded reporters by sneaking on and off the team bus to meet with his players. Afterward, the coach reluctantly agreed to make an official statement to the media.
“An incident like this puts things into perspective,” said Calipari, who did not tape his weekly television show yesterday as scheduled. “Playing basketball games is not life or death. You're talking about playing basketball. With Marcus right now, I think our team knows that their well- being is more important to me than any basketball game.
“We just hope that, by God's good grace, all these tests turn out negative and he's able to rejoin our team in the near future.”
Scene eerily familiar
Calipari flashes back to Williams incident
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/15/1996
The scene was eerily familiar for John Calipari. Road game. Things looking normal. Then, all of a sudden, the game his team had come to play is rendered meaningless, its importance wiped out in the instant one of his players drops to the floor.
Some coaches will go through an entire career and not have to worry about anything more than Xs and Os during the game. For Calipari, yesterday was the worst kind of deja vu as he saw center Marcus Camby collapse in the runway leading from the court to the locker room shortly before the University of Massachusetts' game at St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y.
Two years ago, Calipari and the Minutemen were playing at the University of Cincinnati. Things were proceeding normally when guard Mike Williams collapsed, almost directly in front of Calipari.
Before you could say time out, Calipari was on the court, his hand on Williams' chest. “All I could think of,” said Calipari at the time, “was what happened with Reggie Lewis. Once I felt his heart still beating, I felt a little better.”
As it turned out, Williams was suffering from nothing more than respiratory infection and dehydration. But the memory of the collapse and subsequent death of Celtic star Lewis remains etched in everyone's memory, which is the main reason Calipari took a trip to the hospital with Camby yesterday instead of coaching his team.
Coaching is difficult enough without any additional problems. But these are tense times at UMass. The campus is still in a state of shock over swimmer Greg Menton, who collapsed and died during a meet at Dartmouth last week.
Injuries are part of the game, and every coach can adjust to that, as Calipari did when Camby hurt his knee during the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii last month. But those have logical explanations.
When a player seemingly in the prime of health collapses suddenly, the jolt to everyone is enormous. Having it happen to a coach once is tough enough, having it happen twice should entitle Calipari to combat pay at the very least.
As Calipari said again yesterday, such incidents can change your views quickly. “This puts things in the perspective they should be,” he said. “Basketball is not life and death.”
Unfortunately, sometimes it is, which is why what happened yesterday was so scary and uncomfortably familiar for Calipari.
Camby's collapse still unexplained; tests continuing
Initial reports are called encouraging
By Mark Blaudschun and Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/16/1996
This article was reported in Amherst by Mark Blaudschun and in Olean, N.Y., by Michael Vega; Joe Burris of the Globe staff also contributed from Hartford, Amherst and Worcester.
AMHERST – While Marcus Camby said yesterday that he felt 100 percent healthy, and his coach and University of Massachusetts officials were encouraged by favorable medical test reports, school physicians said there was “great concern” about what caused the star basketball player to pass out for about 10 minutes Sunday.
Accompanied by coach John Calipari, Camby, the best player on the top- ranked Minutemen and a front-runner for national player of the year honors, was discharged from Olean (N.Y.) General Hospital early yesterday afternoon after tests by neurologist Martin Feldman could find no apparent cause for Camby's collapse before the tip-off of Sunday afternoon's game against St. Bonaventure.
Camby, 21, who is averaging 20.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and is touted as a potential NBA lottery pick if he decides to turn professional in the spring, was taken in a silver stretch limousine from the hospital to Olean Airport. Although Camby wanted to return to UMass with his teammates on a commercial flight from Buffalo to Hartford, Feldman persuaded UMass officials to put him on a turbo-prop air ambulance to Worcester.
A helicopter from the UMass Medical Center met the plane at Worcester Airport and transported Camby on a stretcher to the medical center, a standard practice. Camby is under the care of cardiologist Joseph Gore for further evaluation and diagnostic studies.
Team physician James Ralph, speaking at a press conference early yesterday evening at the Mullins Center on the Amherst campus, said that tests at the Olean hospital – including a CAT scan of the brain, a magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, a spinal tap, an initial cardiac evaluation including an electrocardiogram and ECHO cardiogram, blood tests and a perfusion scan of the lung to eliminate the possibility of a blood clot – ruled out some causes but still left uncertainty.
According to a source, Camby will be hooked up to a cardiac telemetry monitor for the next 24 hours as part of further testing, and doctors were also conducting procedures to determine whether he had had some kind of seizure.
“Marcus being unresponsive for 10 minutes is of great concern to us,” said Ralph. “The doctors at the Worcester Medical Center will conduct more tests to determine the cause. But we may never know.”
Dr. Daniel Clapp, another UMass physician at the press conference, said of the 10-minute lapse, “It's a concern. A great concern.”
Clapp also dispelled the notion that Camby, who according to his mother was suffering from a cold, might have collapsed because he had taken an over-the-counter cough medicine on an empty stomach.
“That might be good television talk, but it doesn't fly medically,” Clapp said. “There has to be some other reason.”
Before his trip back to Worcester, Camby spoke of the incident as he walked out of the Olean hospital.
“I felt a little light-headed, I got dizzy and I passed out,” Camby said. “I don't remember much, but I feel fine now. The people here at the hospital took really good care of me.”
Pressed for whatever details he could offer about the episode, Camby joked, “The only thing I recall was seeing myself on TV all laid out,” a reference to TV footage that he saw during his hospital stay.
“But I'm fine,” said Camby. “I feel great, and I feel like I felt last week when I was 100 percent.”
Asked when he hoped to return to the lineup, Camby smiled and joked, “Today,” then shot a hopeful glance at Calipari. But the coach just shook his head and grinned.
“No,” Calipari said. “Not today.”
Although the Minutemen host the University of Rhode Island tomorrow night, Calipari said he was not about to rush Camby back into the lineup.
“I'm not even concerned about that,” he said. “My concern is that he's in no imminent danger. He's going to live. I didn't know that until about 5 or 6 o'clock Sunday night. But there's no danger to him now, and when I found out, that made me feel like we had just won the Final Four.”
Ralph and Clapp said a conservative estimate would be 10 days to two weeks before Camby plays.
Dr. Gerry Aurigemma, director of cardiac diagnostic services at UMass Medical Center, said last night that Camby would remain there at least overnight, and after that, “We will play it by ear.” He listed Camby's condition as “good.” Asked if he had any concerns, he said, “I'll know when I've had a chance to review all of his studies.
“There was an extensive workup performed at Olean General. Tonight, we're mostly going to be reviewing the results of that workup and try to determine as much as we can.
“But he appears good. He's eating dinner right now, and we'll do the best we can to look into what tests have been done. If there are further diagnostic studies, we will be capable of doing them here.”
Calipari said Camby wants no more of hospitals.
“He's concerned about having to stay here another night,” said the coach. “He's looking around. He's been poked, plugged, had pins stuck in his ears, everything else, and he's like, 'I want this done. If you're saying I'm OK, let me go home.' ”
Calipari was asked if he was concerned that, after all the testing in Olean, physicians were still unable to pinpoint the problem.
“They know what it's not, and that's just as important,” Calipari said. “He's been poked and prodded and monitored. They've done a commendable job here. They've made Marcus feel very comfortable, and they've made me feel very comfortable. Everything indicates that he's OK.”
Olean hospital officials estimated their switchboard was swamped with 150 calls from media. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy even attempted to reach Camby but was unable to do so since there was no phone connection in the player's room.
“I had a lot of people come to my room Sunday night,” said Camby, who added that his spirits were uplifted when his teammates paid a visit after their 65-52 victory over the Bonnies. “There were some priests from St. Bonaventure, and their coach Jim Baron even came, too. All the people of Olean really supported me and I appreciate it a lot.”
Camby's teammates said the trip home was uneventful, with most of the talk centering on Camby's condition.
“I'm just praying that he's all right,” said Donta Bright, the first player to reach Camby after the collapse. “He left the court early, so I was kind of watching what he was doing. Then I saw him grab his head and fall. I went running to him and put my hand on his chest to see if he was still breathing. I then called the coaches for help.”
When asked if Camby seemed out of sorts before Sunday's game, senior forward Dana Dingle said, “He complained about a headache, but he seemed pretty normal to me when I had seen him, so I couldn't really tell.”
Paul DeLong, an EMT with the Allegheny Volunteer fire department who treated Camby on the scene, said he and co-worker Steve Griffith initially thought Camby had suffered a seizure.
“When we got there, we both said it looked like a post-seizure-type situation,” DeLong said. “You see him just lying there, eyes staring straight ahead. It was typical. He couldn't talk; he couldn't even nod his head . . .
“I'm not saying he had a seizure, but that's what it looked like.”
Ralph said that tests might reveal that Camby was suffering from “neurocardiogenic syncope,” a term that had a chilling familiarity to it. It was that term, for a benign fainting condition, that Dr. Gilbert Mudge used in his initial diagnosis of late Celtic captain Reggie Lewis.
Although Camby's initial tests were negative and the blood screening revealed no abnormalities, the results of a scan for any substances such as drugs were not available, according to Clapp. Drug screening takes a considerable amount of time, Clapp said.
The sequence of events reminded many of an incident two years ago.
Former UMass guard Mike Williams collapsed face-down during game at Cincinnati Jan. 27, 1994. Williams underwent tests at a Cincinnati hospital and, like Camby, was subsequently admitted to UMass Medical Center for additional tests.
It was never determined definitively what caused Williams' collapse, although he insisted he was suffering from cold symptoms and dehydration and had an adverse reaction to medication. He was given clearance to play and returned to action Feb. 10.
Aurigemma, one of the doctors who examined Williams in 1994, was asked if there were similarities to this case.
“The only thing I can tell you is the way Camby collapsed and how he was revived was very different,” said Aurigemma. “Mike collapsed and woke up right away. With Mr. Camby, it sounds like he had a few minutes of being unconscious.”
Campus chilled on a solemn day
Concern, sorrow only certanties
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/16/1996
AMHERST – With classes for the second semester not beginning for another two weeks, the University of Massachusetts campus was quiet yesterday. That was expected.
What wasn't normal was the added feeling of somberness. In the afternoon, a memorial service for Greg Menton, the UMass swimmer who collapsed and died of an undetected heart ailment last week, was held in the Newman Center. More than 400 people filled the building.
Less than an hour later, the UMass basketball team's bus arrived back on campus. The No. 1-ranked Minutemen should have been jubilant, having preserved their unbeaten record with road wins in Philadelphia against St. Joseph's last Wednesday and in Olean, N.Y., against St. Bonaventure Sunday.
But no one laughed. No one even seemed to talk as the players and staff members scattered in a matter of minutes. The reason was evident. No Marcus Camby. No John Calipari.
The team's star player and head coach were 40 miles away at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester, attempting to find out why Camby, the 6-foot-11- inch All-America center, collapsed shortly before Sunday's game and was unresponsive for 10 chilling minutes.
Although reports yesterday were that Camby seemed fine and in good spirits, there was an underlying sense of concern.
“Healthy 21-year-old athletes don't simply collapse for no reason,” said Dr. Daniel Clapp, one of two UMass team physicians who attended a press conference yesterday at Mullins Center. “I saw where Marcus' mother said on television that Marcus had taken some cough medicine and that seemed to be the reason. That might be good television talk, but it doesn't fly medically. There has to be some other reason.”
That uncertainty, with the spectre of Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis looming in many minds, created a chilling backdrop to the day. Gathers and Lewis were young, apparently healthy basketball players who suddenly died of heart ailments.
With all of that, plus the death of Menton, a seemingly healthy swimmer, there was good reason for the somberness, and it had nothing to do with the 6- foot piles of snow that have become part of the landscape out here this winter.
“You see something like what happened to Marcus and it scares you,” said former UMass basketball coach Jack Leaman, who serves as a broadcaster on the team's radio network. “You wonder what's going on. Kids who are seemingly healthy and active in the prime of their lives just collapsing.
“You see what happened to Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis, and particularly with Lewis. People were saying that he was all right after he first collapsed, just like Marcus. It would make everyone feel better if there was some explanation, like he had high blood sugar or even had an uneven heartbeat. Something that could be treated.
“But when they say everything is fine, it makes you wonder. He was fine before he collapsed, too.”
Although an optimistic front was being presented yesterday, no one was taking Camby's collapse lightly. Not the doctors in Olean, N.Y., who insisted that Camby fly home in a Medivac jet with attending physicans. Not Calipari, who hasn't done much the last 36 hours except stay near Camby, talk to doctors and worry about what he doesn't know as much as what he does know.
Clapp said the uncertainty may be permanent.
“Former UMass guard Mike Williams went down in a game two years ago and we did every test imaginable, but we never really knew,” he said. “To my knowledge, he's been fine since. Maybe that will be the case with Marcus.”
But then he paused. He talked about Camby and the 10-minute period of unresponsiveness. (Williams fainted, too, but was almost immediately coherent.) The doctor shook his head.
“It's a concern,” he said. “A great concern.”
That seemed to be the operative word out here. Concern. Grief. Shock. With the memorial for a swimmer who had died so young and the unexplained collapse of a basketball player who seems still as much a boy as he does a man, there were few smiles, little laughter.
Just prayers and hopes and fears on a gray day in winter.
Calipari feeling the strain
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/16/1996
AMHERST – His travel bag was next to him in the coach's locker room at Mullins Center, ready to be unpacked after a week on the road. For John Calipari, that week seemed more like a month.
Calipari was weary, but the strain came not from coaching the No. 1-ranked University of Massachusetts basketball team. It came from something else.
“Worrying wears you out,” said Calipari early last night, after he finally arrived back on campus following 30 harrowing hours at the side of center Marcus Camby. “Not coaching basketball.”
Calipari did not coach the Minutemen in their latest win, which came Sunday over St. Bonaventure. He was too busy worrying about why Camby collapsed before the game and was unresponsive for nearly 10 minutes before being rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Last night, with Camby alert and responsive but undergoing more tests, Calipari was reflective and relieved that Camby appeared fine, although it has yet to be determined what caused the 6-foot-11-inch, 21-year-old center to collapse.
“Just a scary, scary thing,” said Calipari, who flew back to UMass Medical Center in Worcester with Camby in an air ambulance plane. “You sit there and your thoughts are not about basketball, about him ever playing, your thoughts are him living. From 2 until 3:30 Sunday afternoon probably I didn't know. Is he going to live? Is he going to die?”
Basketball became an afterthought. His team could function without him for the time being. Calipari's focus was on Camby as doctors ran test after test.
Like everyone else, Calipari wondered about the length of the blackout.
“That's what they have to figure out,” he said. “Why was he out that long? But he's in great hands. You're talking about one of the best hospitals in the world.”
Calipari said Camby wanted to return to UMass with his teammates.
“He wanted to go back with them after the game, but we encouraged him to stay,” said Calipari. “Yesterday he was not being grumpy, but he wasn't really happy. He was saying, 'I feel great, I don't see what's wrong with me. You guys have done all your tests. Let me go back.'
“But we're saying, 'We're doing this to be safe. Let's just be sure.' He's one that everything takes a little longer with him. If he's sick, it takes three more days to recover. If it's an ankle injury, it takes him longer than normal.”
Calipari was asked what would happen if the tests do not reveal a cause.
“That's a tough one,” he said. “You want to have an answer from someone that's accountable that he's OK. I'm just a basketball coach. I have no background in medicine.
“The problem comes with Marcus saying, 'I'm playing.' Well, I can't stop him if they say that everything is OK. We're going to take our time. Obviously he's not playing tomorrow night.
“We'll just have to see.”
Calipari said he had no timetable. When guard Mike Williams collapsed in a game against Cincinnati two years ago, he was out 10 days as doctors searched for the cause (which was diagnosed, though not definitively, as dehydration).
“It may be longer,” said Calipari. “It may be all season. It's just so different from Mike's situation.”
Calipari knows that even if Camby is healthy again, the memory of what happened Sunday will remain.
“They didn't tell me why he went down,” he said. “I thought, 'Ankle, knee, something.' I just kind of sprinted out and I saw him on the floor. I just had my hand on him, grabbed his hand, but it was lifeless. It was just there. And your first thought is, 'OK, turn over.' But when he turned over, he was still out. And that's when I started getting really worried. You get scared.”
Last night, finally back home, John Calipari was no longer scared, maybe a little bit worried, but most of all he was plain weary.
Doctors rule out seizure
Camby passes all neurological tests
By Richard Saltus, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/17/1996
Physicians yesterday apparently ruled out a seizure or other neurological disorder as the cause of University of Massachusetts center Marcus Camby's collapse last Sunday, and they were concentrating on tests of his heart and blood vessels in search of some elusive cardiovascular problem.
A team doctor, mindful of the death last week of a UMass swimmer from an undiagnosed heart problem, said the tests might include invasive procedures like angiography or snipping a piece of his heart muscle.
“We're still feeling unsatisfied, unfulfilled, without an answer that's medically honest,” said Daniel Clapp, one of two team physicians, who is also on the staff of the UMass Health Center.
Clapp said he had not heard anything new from physicians at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, where Camby was undergoing a battery of tests after being flown there Monday. The 6-foot-11-inch center collapsed before the top-ranked Minutemen's game against St. Bonaventure Sunday afternoon in Olean, N.Y.
Doctors were perplexed by the fact that Camby was evidently unconscious for a relatively long time – as much as 10 minutes – while his heart and lungs continued to work normally. Clapp said Camby's pulse was slow but added that his normal pulse was also slow because he is in excellent condition.
Paramedics who attended to Camby said he looked like someone who had had a seizure. Clapp, however, said that didn't seem likely because he didn't lose control of his bladder, bite his tongue or have muscular jerks.
A Boston expert agreed. Dr. Andrew Cole, head of the epilepsy service at Massachusetts General Hospital, said it would be “a bit unusual” for a patient having a seizure to be unconscious that long and not to thrash or move his extremities.
Also ruled out by exams at Olean General Hospital were head trauma, a concussion or bleeding inside his skull, Clapp said.
But as they turned to the player's cardiovascular health, doctors found nothing in early tests to explain the episode.
An echocardiogram, which creates a computerized image of the heart by measuring sound waves reflected from it, showed no abnormality of Camby's heart or major blood vessels. Therefore, said Clapp, it is unlikely that his collapse was due to Marfan syndrome, which can cause abnormalities of the heart and the aorta and has been the culprit in sudden deaths of basketball players and other athletes.
“This is something we considered, but we would have thought we would see something in the echo” or when testing Camby's eyes, said Clapp. The syndrome usually causes poor vision as well.
Nor did anything amiss show up on an electrocardiogram, which measures the heart's electrical activity and can detect heart failure or abnormal rhythms. Clapp said he did not know whether Camby had undergone a tilt table test that can reveal whether someone might faint in response to changes in posture or position. One such condition is neurocardiogenic syncope, a fainting disorder more widely recognized in recent years.
Clapp said the UMass doctors might go as far as to perform a myocardial biopsy, in which a catheter tipped with miniature scissors is passed through a vein into the heart so a sample of muscle can be retrieved. This could determine whether Camby had cardiomyopathy, a silent disease of heart muscle that can cause sudden collapse or death in young people.
The other invasive test Clapp mentioned, angiography, involves squirting chemical dye into the coronary arteries that feed the heart so that an X-ray can reveal any blockages in those vital arteries or other abnormalities.
“If that had been done with Greg Menton, he might be alive,” said Clapp, referring to the UMass junior swimmer who died last week after competing in a race. An autopsy showed that two of Menton's three coronary arteries were malformed, causing his heart to go into an abnormal rhythm when he was pushing himself.
For Calipari, it's business, but not as usual
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/17/1996
Joe Burris of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
AMHERST – The calls kept coming into the basketball office at the University of Massachusetts all day. Most of them were offering support and expressing concern about the well-being of center Marcus Camby.
But there were other calls as well.
“Advice and remedies,” said secretary Bonnie Martin, who fielded most of the calls. “We've had all sorts of that in the past few days.
“We had a veterinarian call and tell us to check Marcus' blood pressure. We had someone else call and tell us that Marcus had been given a 'mickey' before the game and that was the reason why he collapsed.”
Martin, who has been through some trying and even tumultuous times in the past few years, shook her head and laughed.
“Everyone's a doctor now,” she said.
With little information coming out of UMass Medical Center in Worcester, where Camby was taken Monday for more tests to determine what caused his collapse Sunday in Olean, N.Y., before the top-ranked Minutemen's game against St. Bonaventure, theories in Amherst were as plentiful as the snow, which was stacked everywhere around town.
Coach John Calipari said former players had called, expressing concern and support. Other coaches have called, too.
”Rutgers coach Bob Wenzel called and told me that he passed out last year and the doctors still haven't found a reason why it happened,” said Calipari, who in addition to keeping up to date on Camby must prepare for tonight's Atlantic 10 encounter with Rhode Island at Mullins Center. “We may never know. But I'm hopeful that if the doctors can't pinpoint what it is, they'll come up with three or four possibilities that it could be and that none of them will be life-threatening.”
According to Calipari, Camby's main problems right now are getting enough sleep and eating well.
“He's worn out from all the tests,” said Calipari. “He called me up and said, 'Coach, get me out of here.' ”
Although Camby was unavailable to the media, there were enough distractions from other well-wishers at the hospital that he was moved to another room, reportedly complaining of too many visitors. A sign on his room said that all visitors must be officially cleared with the Medical Center.
Calipari said he still doesn't have a timetable for Camby's return.
“Two weeks has been used as a time by the doctors,” he said. “But I don't know if you can put a time frame on it. It could be longer. It could be shorter. The doctors could come out tomorrow and say, 'We've completed all our tests and he's ready to play and he could play by this weekend.' Is that likely? Probably not. But I don't know. No one knows at this point.”
What Calipari knows is that he must refocus on coaching basketball. He knows, for now at least, that Camby's life is not in danger. He also knows that Camby will not be available to the team in the immediate future.
So life goes on.
When asked if he could focus on Rhode Island, he shrugged.
“I can deal with things better now than I could a couple of years ago,” he said, referring to the turmoil caused by the collapse of guard Mike Williams two years ago, an injury to Camby last year and the controversy over academics at UMass stirred by a Globe article. “I told the team that they've got to be able to separate things in their lives and deal with it.
Camby leaves hospital today
By Richard Saltus, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/18/1996
Mark Blaudschun of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Amherst.
University of Massachusetts basketball star Marcus Camby was to be released this morning from the hospital where he had been undergoing tests since Monday, but doctors said they still don't know what caused his collapse and several minutes of unconsciousness after he warmed up for a game last Sunday in Olean, N.Y.
The tests at UMass Medical Center in Worcester have all but ruled out heart or blood vessel problems, said a statement released last evening. Drug tests conducted at UMass a day after the incident were negative, according to the statement.
In addition, the exams have ruled out most neurological causes, including a brain tumor or a stroke, according to the statement from Dr. Gerald Steinberg, chief medical officer for UMass Medical Center.
“What we are left with at this time is an isolated episode of altered consciousness,” said Steinberg.
Left unanswered is the question uppermost in the minds of Camby, his teammates, coach and fans: Is it likely to happen again?
The UMass physicians were awaiting results of additional tests, which a spokesman indicated were neurological rather than cardiovascular. “By the end of the week, they'll have a lot more information than they have now,” said the spokesman, Mark Shelton, director of the UMass Medical Center news bureau.
As of yesterday, the doctors were giving no hint of when Camby could return to the top-ranked Minutemen. That discussion, said Steinberg in his statement, would take place at week's end with more information in hand and would involve the player, his physicians and coach John Calipari. UMass beat Rhode Island last night in Amherst and plays at Duquesne Saturday and at Pitt next Tuesday. Calipari indicated last night that he isn't ruling Camby out of the Pitt game. It is not known if Camby will have to be on medication as a result of his collapse.
Athletic director Bob Marcum said the proceedings will be orderly. “We'll wait until the doctors have all the results and then we'll sit Marcus down and talk to him and see what he wants to do. See how he feels. We're obviously not going to play him if there is any question of risk.”
Camby, who is 21 and was found by the doctors to be in excellent physical condition, had complained of a headache and was taking cough medicine for a chest cold before his collapse on a runway between the locker room and the court where UMass was about to play St. Bonaventure.
Witnesses said Camby held his head and slumped to the floor. Emergency medical technicians said the 6-foot-11-inch player's pulse was slow but steady, and he breathed normally while remaining unresponsive.
In a new detail, the UMass physicians' statement said Camby was unable to remember anything from a few minutes before his collapse until about an hour afterward.
Camby underwent a number of tests at Olean General Hospital and the next day was transferred to UMass Medical Center for a long list of further exams. After leaving the hospital in Olean, he said he felt “100 percent.”
“What happened is important,” said the statement issued yesterday. “But it is also important to assess whether such an episode might happen again, and whether Marcus is in any increased danger because of his role as a student athlete.”
Questions on star center still abound
By Bob Ryan, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/18/1996
AMHERST – Will the ramifications never end?
Marcus Camby goes down mysteriously, and suddenly, everybody has questions. Is he OK? Will he live? When will he play again? Will the University of Massachusetts do all right without him? Does this mean the Minutemen can't go undefeated? If they lose, how far down in the polls will they sink? Will any non-Camby losses have a serious effect on UMass' seeding in the NCAA tournament?
Compared to the first question, most of this stuff is banal, but no one can claim they weren't being asked by someone. It's only human nature for the sports fan to indulge in a series of what-ifs.
Let's adopt the optimistic view, shall we? Let's assume that Camby will receive a clean bill of health and that the gifted UMass center does return before too long. There was certainly reason to believe that will be the case, based on the release issued yesterday afternoon by Dr. Gerald Steinberg, the chief medical officer at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
After outlining some of the many tests to which the stricken athlete has been subjected since his collapse Sunday afternoon, Steinberg said, “What we are left with at this time is an isolated episode of altered consciousness.”
There was a fair degree of press-room snickering at that phrasing. Those old enough to have lived through the '60s will recall, for example, that “altered consciousness” was very much a part of the social fabric for a significant percentage of the population. Some thought it was an analysis which could just as easily have been written by Dr. Timothy Leary.
So the basic Effect of this collapse we know. What we still do not know is the basic Cause, and that still concerns the medical community, to be sure. “What happened is of importance,” said Steinberg. “But it is also important to assess whether such an episode might happen again, and whether Marcus is in any increased danger because of his role as a student athlete.”
Which brings us to the question that has, I am sure, never drifted very far from young Mr. Camby's own mind: namely, how will this business affect his standing in the NBA draft, whichever year he chooses to enter it?
If a cause is found, that would be one thing. But should no cause be found, there would be far more of a caveat emptor aura surrounding Camby in the draft. Would a team thinking about drafting him shy away if the cause of his collapse on 1/14/96 is never discovered?
I spoke with two NBA general managers. Call them Mr. A and Mr. B. Each has long experience in the league. Each has had occasion to pick relatively high in the draft.
“I'd have to ask my medical people to look into it,” said Mr. A. “If they were to say they had no problem with it, then I'd have to say I'd draft him if I liked him as a player. I guess the real question I'd ask the doctor is, 'What are the percentages?' ”
Mr. A is a very practical man, in addition to being one of the most brutally honest (and delightful) men I've dealt with in 26 years of covering the league. He's seen so much, good and bad, that he's sort of numbed to the process.
“Look,” he said, “there is nothing definite, anyway. There is no 100 percent accuracy in the draft. Everyone should know that. Taking Camby under the circumstances you've described is probably no bigger a risk than taking anyone else.”
Mr. B says he, too, would have to rely on the opinion of the medical people at his disposal if a Camby were presented to him under the circumstances described. “I'd let the doctors render an intelligent decision,” he said. “But my guess right now is that eventually, there will be an explanation for the collapse.”
What makes Mr. B a little different than most people – at least I think so, anyway – is that he's not a paid-up member of the Marcus Camby Fan Club to begin with.
“I'm sorry,” he said, “but I really don't like Camby as an NBA player that much. He has no position. He's not a center. He's not a power forward. I see him something like Rasheed Wallace or Pervis Ellison. Pervis has gotten somewhat stronger over the years, but they still push him around, and right now they're pushing Wallace around, too.
“Frankly,” continued Mr. B (who most likely will not be speaking at the UMass basketball banquet this year), “he really should stay in school and get himself stronger. He won't, of course. He won't be able to resist the money.”
Mr. B has one more interesting point. Whoever takes Camby, be it in 1996 or even 1997 (as unlikely a prospect as that is), won't be in a Shawn Bradley situation, staring at a $40 million investment. Those days are over.
“That's right,” said Mr. B. “The good news is that with the rookie cap, no one has to commit $40 million or $50 million.” Nope, just, oh, eight or nine. You know, chump change.
I don't happen to agree with Mr. B's assessment, which doesn't mean that either of us is a bad person or an idiot. I just think that Mr. B's placement of Camby in the Numerical Box (i.e., 5 is a center, 4 is a power forward, 3 is a small forward, etc.) is typical NBA slotting which does the game no good. True enough, Camby isn't a 5 or a 4. So what if he's a 4.5, or maybe a 3 7/8? He's agile enough to guard small forwards and he'll pose severe matchup problems for some people.
I know I'm in the majority when I say I'm simply looking forward to seeing Marcus Camby play again.
Camby cleared to play
He leaves hospital; return date unsure
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/19/1996
WORCESTER – Five days of extensive testing didn't reveal a thing. His heart checked out fine. He showed no neurological problems. He was termed a very healthy individual. The one thing doctors know about Marcus Camby's collapse last Sunday is that they don't know why it happened. So yesterday the University of Massachusetts junior center from Hartford was released from UMass Medical Center and given medical clearance to return to the nation's top-ranked team.
Camby, who collapsed and was unconscious for 10 minutes Sunday before the game against St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., was discharged from the hospital at 11:30 a.m. after one final test – a glucose exam. He visited children in the pediatric ward before leaving but declined a scheduled visit with the media.
UMass Medical Center doctors said Camby can resume play and practice, yet they will do further monitoring, with a seizure still considered a possible cause for his blackout. Camby must wear an ambulatory electro-encephalographic monitor for 24-48 hours, beginning at noon yesterday. It is a Walkman-sized device wired to a skull cap that monitors brain waves.
UMass coach John Calipari said he did not know when Camby would return to action. “When he'll play will be up to Marcus,” said Calipari. Asked when Camby will resume practicing, he said, “On his own, he will probably start today with a shootaround. The doctors have said he should probably for a week avoid the bumping and grinding with other players. After that time, it will be up to Marcus.”
Camby returned to the Amherst campus and visited the team but did not practice yesterday. He also did not accompany the team when it left for Pittsburgh last night for a five-day, two-game road trip. Camby is likely to miss the first game, tomorrow afternoon at Duquesne, but might be available for the second, Tuesday night at Pitt. Late yesterday afternoon, one source close to the team said Camby probably won't make the trip.
Another consideration for Calipari and UMass fans will be how apprehensive Camby might be the next time he plays for the Minutemen.
“It's up to Marcus when he feels comfortable playing,” said Calipari. “For the next week, we will see how he feels and then we will go from there.”
Asked if he was certain Camby was not at risk resuming his basketball career, Dr. David Drachman, chief of neurology at UMass Medical Center, said, “We look for anything whatever. What we looked for was a brain tumor, narrowed arteries, an abnormal vascular malcrimation, an aneurysm or anything else. We see no more risk there than in you or me or anyone else.”
Dr. Joel Gore, chief of cardiology, said tests on Camby's heart – including an MRI and exercise tests – showed he had a “normal heart.” He added, “We felt his clinical story was compatible with not being a cardiac diagnosis.”
Calipari, who throughout the week said he would have to feel comfortable about using his star center again before allowing him to return, said doctors reassured him Camby is fine.
“The good news I can tell all of you is that it has nothing to do with his heart. They did every scan they can do,” said Calipari. “There's no stroke, no tumors and nothing in his head. So I feel comfortable that he's going to be fine.
“The things that were ruled out were things that would put him in danger. I would never play him if I thought it was any point that would endanger his life. That's not the case. The other thing that made me feel comfortable was doctors saying 50 percent of fainting spells are never detected. And most people go on with life and it may never happen again, and if it does happen in 10 or 15 years, it's the same kind of result.”
Calipari said Camby opted not to meet the press because he was drained after all the testing.
“His feeling was just, 'Let me out,' ” said Calipari.
Camby says he's OK
UMass star unsure when he'll be back
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/21/1996
PITTSBURGH – Marcus Camby admitted he was nervous. He was worried. The University of Massachusetts star center admitted he thought about other basketball stars who collapsed while a nation watched in horror. The late Hank Gathers. The late Reggie Lewis.
But doctors later told Camby that his collapse prior to the UMass-St. Bonaventure game last Sunday at Olean, N.Y., was not cardiac related, and the worrying ceased. Now he's ready to take the court again.
“They said everything is fine. My heart is fine. My brain is fine. I'm ready to play,” said Camby, who yesterday spoke publicly for the first time since being released from the UMass Medical Center in Worcester on Thursday, following five days of extensive testing (some of which also was done at Olean General Hospital) that failed to show why he collapsed.
“I was a little nervous considering the stuff that happened to Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis, this and that,” said Camby. “But once doctors told me there was nothing wrong with my heart I knew I would be fine.”
He declined to say whether he would return to action Tuesday night, when the No. 1 Minutemen play at Pitt, but a source said last night that Camby is expected to dress for the game and that a decision probably will be made around game time.
“Marcus feels good and he's ready to play,” said coach John Calipari. “We'll see if he's ready to play on Tuesday. It's up to him.”
Camby joined the team yesterday, while the Minutemen battled scrappy Duquesne, which fell behind by 19 in the second half but got as close as 4 before suffering a 93-89 defeat. Camby did not attend the game, opting to go straight to his hotel room. UMass officials said Camby had wanted to speak to the press prior to yesterday but was still sluggish and nauseous because of the testing.
“This is the first time I've been through this. I've been through a lot between the different hospitals, doctors and all these telephone calls,” said Camby. “It's been a bad week for me but a great one for the team. You can't lose track of that. They played without me for two games. They've won impressively and they've got it going.”
Camby said it is too early to say when he'll return to the court. “I don't want to come back and mess up the team chemistry,” he said. “They're playing so well right now. Doctors said to take my time and don't rush things, and that's what I've been doing. I went through a lot of tests and everything came back positive so I just want to take my time coming back.”
Camby said the ambulatory electro-encephalogram he had been wearing for 48 hours, which measures brain waves, indicated no problems, and was removed yesterday. He said he shot a few baskets Friday and felt as if he had been away from the game a long while.
“I met with doctors yesterday morning; everything looks fine. I hope to be back real soon,” Camby said. Asked how apprehensive he will be about returning to action, Camby said, “I won't be,” then laughed.
“The same day I went in I wanted to go out there and play,” he said. “It's something you just have to block out of your mind. They said it was a rare incident. I just have to go out there and play the game and block out what happened last Sunday.
“It was pretty scary, but it was scarier for my family. My mom told me when she saw me on TV she got really upset and felt really bad. But once I got to the hospital and I got my senses back I knew there was nothing wrong with me.”
Camby said he remembers little of last Sunday after boarding the team bus for the game. “After that, I don't know. I don't even remember myself falling,” he said. “I just remember seeing myself on TV a lot.”
Camby said it was frustrating having to go through so many tests that kept coming back negative. “But I knew the doctors meant well and they wanted to test out everything to make sure I was really all right,” he said. “I was getting frustrated getting poked in my arm and all types of places but it was for my own good, so I stuck with it.”
Camby said he hasn't given thought to whether the week's goings-on would affect whether he might leave UMass after this season for the NBA. “I just want to go out there and win a national championship, help my team get better and take it from there at the end of the season,” he said.
Camby squirms in seat
For anxious center, it's not quite routine
On College Basketball
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/24/1996
PITTSBURGH – In some ways, it was like a normal game day. He got up yesterday morning, joked with roommate Tyrone Weeks, then went out to the University of Pittsburgh for a shootaround.
Only then did it become clear that Marcus Camby was still in a transition phase. He was part of the team, but he wasn't. He was the team's leader, but he wasn't. He was back playing basketball, but he wasn't.
It's going to be that way for a while. The extra minicams, the intense scrutiny. Camby doesn't like it, which is why he was basically off limits to the media yesterday. He's tired of talking about how he feels and being asked what he thinks.
What happened happened. If the doctors don't know why he collapsed before a game at St. Bonaventure Jan. 14, then he isn't going to make a diagnosis.
Of course, he still thinks about what happened – “whenever I see it on television or when people talk about it” – but he's trying not to dwell on it, trying to get things back to normal as soon as he can.
He had been in Pittsburgh since Saturday night. He has done just about everything except practice at full speed and play in games. What the team did, Marcus Camby did. That meant just hanging out or going to a mall or visiting Children's Hospital.
All Camby knew was that he was back doing what he wants to do more than anything.
Last night at cozy Fitzgerald Field House, the main event was No. 1 UMass vs. Pitt. But the pregame drama was Camby. Would he play or wouldn't he?
UMass coach John Calipari said he encouraged Camby to wait a few more days. Ideally, Calipari would wait at least until Saturday, when St. Bonaventure visits Amherst.
Shortly before an early-afternoon interview with ESPN, Calipari was still leaning toward not playing Camby, but in midafternoon, he was swayed in another direction. After talking to trainer Ron Laham and the doctors back in Worcester, he changed his mind.
Basically, the doctors told Calipari that Camby was ready. How long was he going to keep him out? “They said, 'Why isn't he playing?' ” said Calipari.
Calipari then called Camby's mother in Hartford and told her Marcus probably would play. Camby's mother wanted assurance that he wouldn't play 40 minutes. “Only if it's close,” Calipari said with a laugh. He told her that Marcus probably would get some playing time if he felt all right after warmups.
Camby echoed those sentiments.
“I wanted to play,” he said. “But Cal said he wanted me to get some 'rough' practices in first.”
“He'll get those today, tomorrow and Friday,” said Calipari.
As game time approached, anticipation built. Nevertheless, UMass officials worked hard at saying this was life as usual. There were no extra medical personnel around.
“He was talking about giving me five- to seven-minute spurts each half,” said Camby.
In pregame warmups, nothing seemed unusual, except for the photographers in Camby's face.
When the game started, Camby was on the bench, serving as the team's main cheerleader. He stayed there the entire night, watching UMass struggle early and late but still prevail with a tough, 79-71 overtime victory.
“At dinner, he was begging me to play,” said Calipari. “How crazy is this? With three minutes left, he said, 'Coach put me in.' He wanted to play that much.”
Camby says he will be ready by Saturday. After that, he does not know. He just wants to enjoy as much of college as he can.
“I'm not thinking about the NBA right now,” he said. “I'm not ready for that lifestyle yet.”
Last night the lifestyle consisted of watching instead of playing. For one more time, at least, it was a game without Marcus Camby.
Camby is cautious on eve of his return
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/27/1996
Marcus Camby concedes he is not sure what will happen this afternoon when he returns as a prime-time player for the University of Massachusetts. He is not sure how he will feel or what he will feel when the cheers come cascading upon him from every corner of the Mullins Center.
All he knows is that it is time to move on. That time will come somewhere between 2 and 4 this afternoon in Amherst as the No. 1 Minutemen continue the Atlantic 10 segment of their season against St. Bonaventure.
The game will be a sideshow. The main event will be the return of Camby, who collapsed before the Minutemen's game at St. Bonaventure Jan. 14 and hasn't played since.
The 6-foot-11-inch All-American was nonresponsive for 10 minutes and was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Olean, N.Y.
Four days of tests and more tests revealed many things. Camby learned that there was nothing wrong with his heart or his brain. What he did not learn, and may never learn, is why he passed out.
“In the back of my mind, I'm thinking that it could happen again,” said Camby in a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon. “But I'm thinking positive right now.”
Still, there are as many questions as answers, not only among people around Camby but in Camby himself. He has been back at practice for only three days. He has yet to go through a full-blown strenuous practice.
“On Thursday, I went about three five-minute segments of scrimmaging,” he said. “Everything feels fine.”
The doubts and the questions linger. Camby was asked again about the eerie similarities between his collapse and what happened to former Celtics captain Reggie Lewis, who collapsed for the first time during an NBA game in April 1994 and died three months later of what was reported to be a damaged heart.
“I don't think that's the same situation,” said Camby. “They were saying his was drug-related. I know mine was not.”
The links persist, however. Camby said yesterday that Lewis' widow, Donna, had talked to UMass coach John Calipari. “She's supposed to come and see me today,” said Camby.
Camby feels reasonably confident that he is healthy enough to resume his career. “Once the doctors told me there was nothing wrong with my heart and brain, I felt better,” he said. “I haven't given that much thought to it.”
Camby says he has no fears about playing. He never believed his career was in jeopardy. “When I woke up after the collapse, I wanted to go out and rejoin my teammates right away. The doctors said they wanted to take more tests.”
For the past two weeks, Camby has been bombarded with mail. “Counting e-mail and everything else, I guess there would be several hundred,” he said.
He realizes that today's game will not be a true indication of what he can do. He doesn't expect to start and will play in short stints of 5-7 minutes. “I got real winded in the scrimmages,” he said. “I know I'm not there yet.”
He says he doesn't worry about his future in the NBA or what pro officials will think. “I'm just worried about going out and winning a national championship,” he said.
Camby says his only goal is to go out, play hard and try to help his teammates, who have carried on, hardly missing a beat for the past four games.
What happened to him may remain a mystery forever. But this afternoon, Camby knows he will finally be back playing basketball, which is all he has wanted to do for the past two weeks.
Camby presumed healthy after pre-game collapse
By Candice Flemming and Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, January 30, 1996 (first publication after winter break)
Five days after the death of Massachusetts swimmer Greg Menton, Marcus Camby of the UMass men's basketball team collapsed moments before the Minutemen's basketball game against St. Bonaventure.
Camby was immediately taken by ambulance on Jan. 14 to Olean General Hospital with Massachusetts coach John Calipari by his side. Camby had been taking cough medicine to fight an illness and fell light-headed before the collapse, his coach said.
“An incident like this puts things into the perspective they should be in,” Calipari said. “Basketball is not life or death.”
Camby's heart never stopped beating and he never stopped breathing, but he was unresponsive for approximately 10 minutes, causing great concern to doctors.
Camby underwent numerous tests later that evening and the following morning, when a heart problem was ruled out. According to Calipari, that news “was like winning the Final Four.”
Camby was released from the hospital later that afternoon and transported to the UMass Medical Center in Worcester for further testing.
“I think you have to be ultra-cautious, yes,” team physician James Ralph said after Camby was admitted to the medical center.
“Any circumstance like this is unsettling to everyone, that's why they are going to do every conceivable test,” said Ralph, adding he was particularly troubled that Camby was unresponsive for 10 minutes after fainting.
Upon leaving Olean General Hospital, Camby said he felt “100 percent.”
“I'm fine, I feel great,” Camby said. “I'm anxious to get back on the court.”
At the UMass Medical Center, Camby underwent “an extensive medical evaluation and rigorous testing” according to a written statement by Dr. Gerald Steinberg, chief medical officer at the UMass Medical Center.
“Marcus' evaluation at UMass included a wide range of diagnostic procedures, as well as a review of tests down at [Olean General Hospital],” Steinberg said. “He tolerated the tests well, and as might be expected of a college athlete, his physical condition is excellent.”
Camby was released from the hospital on the morning of Jan. 18 and Steinberg said “we are able to rule out at this time a cardiac or cardiovascular cause of the event Marcus suffered with a high degree of confidence.”
Camby missed three games because of the collapse and the Minutemen have won all three without him. He traveled to Pittsburgh a day after his team and was going to suit up for the Minutemen's game against Pitt but it was uncertain if he would play at all.
Only two years ago, UMass junior guard Michael Williams collapsed during a game at Cincinnati. Tests revealed no cardiac problems and he was cleared to play two weeks later
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Collapse still leaves questions
By Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, January 30, 1996
It happened twice before, but never like this.
Two years ago it was on the floor of Madison Square Garden against North Carolina, and last year it was at home versus St. Joseph's. Massachusetts center Marcus Camby lay on the floor of a basketball arena with an injury and was lost to his team for a short period of time.
Those incidents have since healed and are long forgotten. However those events are all overshadowed by the happenings on Sunday, Jan 14 in Olean, NY.
On the way back to the locker room from the pre-game shoot around, less than seven minutes before game time against St. Bonaventure, the 6-foot-11-inch National Player of the Year candidate fell motionless and unresponsive in the runway for nearly 10 minutes. Unlike his previous injuries and ailments, no concrete indication as to what happened to the superstar that day has been given.
The 21-year-old future NBA draft pick was suited up for the Minutemen’s clash with Pitt, but he didn't see action. But that does not mean that his battle is over, or does it? And what does this do for the team as a whole?
Every possible test that could determine what might have caused him to collapse has returned negative, so we know it's not neurological, cardiological or pharmaceutical. Those indicators are positive, and the doctors have cleared him to continue playing without any reservations.
But with the death of swimmer Greg Menton to a heart condition already casting a somber atmosphere over the University, how can there not be a lingering question in the minds and hearts of family, friends and fellow classmates.
Will it happen again?
Could the tests have missed something or just not be able to detect what the problem was? After all, Menton's condition was found only after his much-too-early passing. The answers to these questions we may never know until it is too late, or they may never be answered at all.
The way this team is playing, do they really need him? Since his well documented, but unaccounted for collapse, the Minutemen have played four games and come out on top in every one of them. Sure, twice they have gone to overtime, but those games were on Hawk Hill, where UMass always has a tough time defeating St Joe’s and at Pittsburgh of the Big East.
Earlier this year the Panthers completely dismantled fifth ranked Georgetown by 19 at the Fitzgerald Field house and had lost there only 11 times in the past six years. That record includes a 48-5 mark against non-conference opponents going into the UMass game.
I know the Minutemen won't go very far in the tournament without the best big man in the country, but this stretch of close games has brought out the best in the other contributors on the club.
Donta Bright has turned into the scorer we all heard he was when he came out of the best high school program in the country. Over the four games Camby has missed, Bright has averaged 21 points per game. The most impressive stretch may have been the 10 points in a 19-5 run that turned a five point deficit into a 62-53 lead for UMass against Pitt.
Carmelo Travieso is a streak shooter that has found a zone hitting 14 of his last 22 three point attempts, including at least five of those in the stretch. Dana Dingle also stepped up with a career high 24 points against Duquesne.
We may have not learned enough about the health of the UMass superstar, but if the incident turns out not to be a threatening or recurring one, it still may have been a valuable learning experience.
Justin C Smith is a Collegian columnist.