Camby is on way back to team that's still tops
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/25/1996
Marcus Camby will likely play in the University of Massachusetts' next basketball game, which would put the nation's No. 1-ranked team back at full strength and force opponents to once again respect the Minutemen's interior.
But undoubtedly, UMass learned much about its team in Camby's absence after the center collapsed before a game against St. Bonaventure at Olean, N.Y., Jan. 14. Although they were outscrapped in the middle at times in the four games Camby sat out, the Minutemen had several players step up their games, while others who might not have played with him in the lineup saw considerable action.
Those two factors – and a successful return by Camby – would make the Minutemen an even more formidable opponent the remainder of the season.
“What's nice to see in Camby's absence is guys doing certain things,” said coach John Calipari, whose team traveled back from a grueling two-game swing in Pittsburgh after collecting nailbiting wins over Duquesne and Pitt.
The Minutemen (17-0) returned home yesterday to prepare for St. Bonaventure Saturday and Fordham next Tuesday. The Minutemen were scheduled to practice yesterday but missed an 8:15 a.m. flight and did not leave the Pittsburgh area until noon. They did not practice.
As for Camby, doctors at UMass Medical Center in Worcester told the Associated Press yesterday that test results received since he was released from the hospital last Thursday all came back negative – revealing no abnormality that might have caused the blackout.
“My hope is that I never do know,” said Dr. David A. Drachman, chairman of neurology at the hospital. “That would be wonderful, that it may never recur.”
Camby suited up and wanted to play in Tuesday night's 79-71 overtime win at Pitt, but Calipari kept him out, saying he had not been in a competitive practice since his collapse.
The 6-foot-11-inch center worked out lightly Monday and Tuesday, is expected to practice with the team today and tomorrow and should play Saturday against St. Bonaventure.
“I'll see him in a couple of weeks and I'll examine him neurologically,” Drachman said. “I don't expect much. It's just a matter of follow-up.”
He said no further tests are planned.
Drachman posed a hypothetical situation as an illustration of how the cause of Camby's collapse might never be known. “For all we know, he may have walked onto the team bus, bumped his head unobserved and later blacked out with no recollection of the event. I'm not saying that happened. There's no way I could.”
Among the test results received since Thursday were those of an ambulatory EEG, which found no brain abnormality that might have been indicative of a seizure. Results were negative on a glucose tolerance test, which checks for lowered blood sugar, and a prolactin study measuring the level of that hormone, which could rise after a seizure, Drachman said.
Meanwhile, Calipari hopes the players who stepped up in Camby's absence will continue to play at that level when the center returns.
“I'm telling Donta Bright, 'Don't change your game when you come back; you're capable of doing this. You're capable of scoring on people and getting yourself free,' ” Calipari said. “Carmelo Travieso is finding himself with the way he's playing. We just seem to find a way to win.”
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise has been Travieso, a junior guard who has averaged 25 points in his last two games, including a career-high 33 against Duquesne.
Some felt the Minutemen would fall from the top without Camby, and there were times when it seemed they would. But they showed they have many weapons without their star.
Camby is cautious on eve of his return
By Joe Burris, 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 segements 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.
UMass has its act together in romp
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/28/1996
AMHERST – The best player on the No. 1 team in the country took the floor for the first time since Jan. 14 yesterday, and initially the results were horrible. The chemistry the University of Massachusetts had developed during star center Marcus Camby's absence was lost; in the early going of their Atlantic 10 game with St. Bonaventure, the Minutemen were sloppy and inconsistent. Meanwhile, Camby, returning after his collapse prior to the UMass-St. Bonaventure game at Olean, N.Y., two weeks ago, was understandably rusty offensively and slow-footed defensively.
But late in the first half, Camby's game – the soft, turnaround jumper, the floor vision, the shot-blocking skills – returned. The teammates who took turns carrying the load during Camby's absence adjusted.
The result was frightening. The Camby-led Minutemen routed the pesky Bonnies with several second-half runs en route a 72-47 win and showed how formidable they should be with a healthy Camby the rest of the way.
Camby had a game-high 19 points and blocked nine shots, tying a school record, as the Minutemen, the only unbeaten team in Division 1, improved to 18-0, 6-0 in the A-10.
Meanwhile, forward Donta Bright, who averaged 20.8 points in the four games Camby missed, tallied 15 (1 shy of his season average), and shooting guard Carmelo Travieso, who averaged 25 points in the last two games, had just 9 yesterday (4 shy of his season average).
The Minutemen held St. Bonaventure to 28 percent shooting from the floor and connected on 7 of 11 3-point attempts in the first half. UMass raced to a 13-point first-half lead, boosted it to 26 in the second half and coasted from there. St. Bonaventure fell to 5-11, 1-6.
“The thing I was most impressed with and the thing I worried about most was would Donta, Edgar Padilla, Carmelo and Dana Dingle continue to play the way they did when Marcus was out,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “Donta Bright did his thing. Edgar Padilla did his thing. Carmelo did his thing. Dana did his thing.
“And all of a sudden now, we've become even a stronger team.”
Over the first 2:21 of the game, the Minutemen had just 2 points. Camby misfired on a turnaround jumper from the left baseline on the Minutemen's first possession. Dingle scored on a pullup basket on the second possession, but on the third, Camby misfired down low after a lob pass from point guard Padilla.
Camby went out with 17:39 left, and UMass went ahead, 8-1, on back-to- back 3-point baskets by Padilla and Travieso. The trend continued throughout the first half; Camby finished the half with 7 points (5 free throws) on 1-of-3 shooting.
“Their guards stepped up and took a lot of pressure off their team,” said St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron. “They did what they had to do in the first half with the 3-point shooting. That helped them set the tone for the second half.”
UMass went ahead, 45-25, with 15:41 left before St. Bonaventure scored 7 unanswered points to cut the lead to 45-32 with 13:52 to go. Then the Minutemen played their best basketball of the afternoon in an awesome display of balanced scoring: Camby scored 3 consecutive buckets to put UMass up, 51-34. Bright followed with 4 points to make it 55-37 with 10:10 left. Padilla hit a trey with 8:10 left to put UMass up, 58-37.
“They've been playing great in my absence,” said Camby, who hit six straight shots after missing his first two. He reached the 1,000-point mark for his career with on a jumper with 7:32 left. “Carmelo got it going down in Pittsburgh. Donta stepped his game up, Dana, the whole team.”
“We've worked so hard with Camby out,” said Bright. “Coach told us once Marcus comes back he would work him in gradually, and we should keep our game level where it was at. He said to stay aggressive, and we did.”
Camby happy to be back home
Triumphant return for UMass star
On College Basketball
By Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 1/28/1996
AMHERST – Let's start with the essential answers. Twenty-six minutes of playing time, 19 points, 7 rebounds, 9 blocked shots, at least that many intimidations, even when he was sitting on the bench resting.
So how is Marcus Camby? Just fine, thank you, and now he would like you all to let him return to the business of being arguably the best player in college basketball without having to deal with all these questions about how he feels each time he steps on the court.
The No. 1 University of Massachusetts continued its season yesterday with a routine 72-47 victory over St. Bonaventure at the Mullins Center. But for Camby it was, as he said, “like being a freshman all over again.”
The butterflies in the stomach. The self-doubt that kept creeping into his brain, despite all the evidence that suggested there was no need for that.
Two weeks ago, the world known around here as Cambyland literally collapsed. Before a game against St. Bonaventure Jan. 14 at Olean, N.Y., the 6-foot-11-inch junior fell to the floor in what can best be described in terms normally reserved for a UFO incident. Something happened, but no one is quite sure what it was, why it happened and if it will ever happen again.
The Minutemen and coach John Calipari went about their business of being the best team in the nation, simply adding the distractions and uncertainty surrounding Camby's collapse to a list of potential speed bumps facing any No. 1 team.
Calipari said the only thing that was more traumatic than watching Camby collapse was having “the Boston Globe attack me to get to my players,” referring to a Globe article two years ago that examined the academic records of UMass players.
Then Calipari, apparently getting a dose of reality, said, “But this was a life-or-death situation.”
At times during the last two weeks, it seemed bigger than that. Camby became almost a stalked figure. Wherever he went, people wanted to know how he felt, when he was going to come back. He was poked, prodded and followed persistently by fans and media, all wanting to know about his state of mind as well as his state of health.
Even Donna Harris Lewis, the wife of late Celtics captain Reggie Lewis, inquired about Camby's health, although she did not attend yesterday's game, as Camby thought she might.
Yesterday, on a dark and stormy afternoon, before a sellout crowd of 9,493 that was enthusiastically supportive but not fawning, Camby returned to the scene of his yet-to-be-reached prime, showing and telling everyone that both his mind and health were fine.
Public address announcer Jack O'Neill introduced Camby last among the UMass starters, prompting a mini-ovation that was highlighted by Camby bouncing among his teammates like a child on a pogo stick.
“I'm just relieved to be playing,” Camby said afterward. “Now maybe you guys will leave me alone.”
As long as Camby is playing, that's probably not going to happen, but for different reasons. At his best, Camby is elevated somewhere above the rest of the crowd.
“When he is focused, it's scary how good he is,” said Calipari. “When he plays a Kentucky and says he is going to carry the team, it's scary. When he plays against Tim Duncan of Wake Forest and says he's going to shut him out, it's scary.”
Camby was focused yesterday, but in a different way. As good as he said he felt after two hard days of practice, he still didn't know. Before the game, Camby's mother Janice said she had a feeling everything would be all right. “When I talked to him last night, he said he was OK,” she said, sitting in her customary seat on the first row behind the UMass bench.
Janice Camby said that watching her son collapse on television was scary, but seeing him play again was doubly gratifying.
Camby felt the same way. He started out slowly, missing a couple of shots. But then he got into the flow of the game. He rebounded, he blocked shots, he made shots. He was playing again.
Camby concedes the collapse has changed him. He is taking better care of his body and eating better, although there was nothing to indicate in the tests that diet had anything to do with Camby's collapse.
“I told him, 'Your body is going to make you $100 million. Don't you think you should take care of it?' ” Calipari said.
Camby took care of a lot of things yesterday, particularly during a 90-second stretch in the second half. St. Bonaventure took four shots, and Camby blocked them all.
“I was getting tired of guys driving in the lane,” Camby said with a laugh.
The Bonnies learned what everyone else who has played UMass with Camby this season has learned. Life in the lane and around the basket is dangerous with the lanky junior lurking.
After the game, Camby said he wasn't tired or overly taxed. Rather he was satisfied and content to be back playing basketball at a high level.
''I felt great out there,” he said. “I got out and played. I had a lot of blocks, I scored my 1,000th career point. It's been a good day for me.”
With better days ahead, no doubt.
Their No. 1 priority is normalcy
By Michael Vega, Boston Globe Staff, 1/29/1996
It was two weeks ago that Marcus Camby took his first steps to get back into the lineup for the University of Massachusetts' top-ranked basketball team.
The stainless-steel elevator doors in the lobby of Olean (N.Y.) General Hospital parted at 2 p.m. that day, and from them emerged Camby's 6-foot-11- inch frame, finally unfurled and upright.
Accompanied by coach John Calipari and trainer Ron Laham, Camby, arguably the nation's best player, walked under his own power into the crowded lobby.
He was greeted by astonished onlookers sitting in a nearby waiting area, some autograph-seeking children and a small horde of media eager to find out how he was feeling. Camby had been discharged after a 24-hour observation period following his frightening collapse before a Jan. 14 Atlantic 10 game at St. Bonaventure.
He could recall only sketchy details of his episode, saying the only clear memory was watching TV reports in his hospital room, “and seeing myself on TV all laid out,” he joked.
A few days later, proclaiming that he felt fine, and wanted no more poking and prodding after undergoing a battery of tests, Camby clearly was ready to put his Ordeal d'Olean behind him.
He was eager to get on with his life.
Saturday afternoon, when he finally returned to the lineup after sitting out three games, Camby seemed to do just that by scoring 19 points and blocking 9 shots in a 72-47 romp over St. Bonaventure before a sellout crowd at the Mullins Center.
Camby surpassed the 1,000-point mark, tied a school record with his blocks and helped UMass (18-0 overall, 6-0 conference) maintain its status as the nation's only undefeated team.
“It's been a good day for me,” Camby said afterward.
Indeed. But yesterday may have been even better. It was a Super Sunday for Calipari, Camby and the rest of the Minutemen because, for the first time since Jan. 14, a sense of normalcy had been restored to their lives.
St Bonaventure (47) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Blackwell 33 4-13 1-1 7-10 1 5 9 Palmer 32 4-12 1-3 2-5 0 1 9 Spellman 31 3-9 1-2 1-1 1 3 7 Singleton 21 1-5 0-0 2-5 1 0 2 Mcneill 39 2-12 1-2 1-4 2 3 6 D Williams 2 0-1 2-2 0-1 0 0 2 Mcfarland 27 1-10 4-5 1-3 0 3 6 Schoone 15 3-3 0-0 2-2 0 0 6 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 18-65 10-15 16-31 5 15 47 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.277, Ft-.667. 3-Point Goals: 1-12, .083 (Blackwell 0-1, Singleton 0-1, Mcneill 1-5, Mcfarland 0-5). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 15 (Palmer 6, Blackwell 2, Mcneill 2, Spellman 2, Mcfarland, Schoone, Singleton). Steals: 8 (Blackwell 2, Mcneill 2, D Williams, Schoone, Singleton, Spellman). Massachusetts (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 30 3-6 1-2 4-6 0 2 7 Bright 24 5-9 4-4 1-3 0 4 15 Camby 26 6-8 7-8 0-7 0 1 19 E Padilla 29 5-7 0-0 0-4 9 2 15 Travieso 37 3-11 0-0 0-2 3 1 9 Clarke 12 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 Burns 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 G Padilla 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Maclay 1 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Weeks 21 1-3 0-2 1-4 3 1 2 Cottrell 1 1-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 2 Nunez 4 1-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 2 Norville 13 0-0 1-2 0-5 0 1 1 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 25-47 13-18 7-34 16 15 72 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.532, Ft-.722. 3-Point Goals: 9-21, .429 (Dingle 0-1, Bright 1-2, E Padilla 5-7, Travieso 3-10, Clarke 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 14 (Camby 9, Bright 3, Norville 2). Turnovers: 18 (E Padilla 5, Camby 3, Bright 2, Dingle 2, Travieso 2, Weeks 2, Burns, Norville). Steals: 3 (E Padilla 2, Travieso). __________________________________ St Bonaventure 23 24 - 47 Massachusetts 36 36 - 72 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,493. Officials: Brent Kerbs, Kevin Diss, Glenn Mayberry.