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Heart of YSU team returns after health scare

By JOHN VARGO

Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN — Naz Bohannon knew something was wrong a couple of months ago. The Youngstown State sophomore went to a local urgent care facility and realized something more than an annoying cold was bothering him.

Bohannon, a 6-foot-6 Lorain native, was determined to have a heart murmur. A battery of tests ensued. Prior to the Penguins’ Dec. 28 against Detroit Mercy, Bohannon he had to sit. This was the first time he couldn’t be an active participant of the game he loves — basketball.

The YSU men’s basketball team had to be without its consistent sophomore leader, who you could say is the heart and soul of this program yearning to establish a winning culture.

The right side of Bohannon’s heart was dilated. Doctors in Youngstown and Cleveland decided sitting out was for the best as tests ensued, stress tests and echocardiograms. An MRI showed his heart might be enlarged.

“To not be able to get out there was crushing,” Bohannon said. “It was an eerie feeling.”

Bohannon’s last game prior to Saturday’s win at Milwaukee was Dec. 18 at Ohio State. He was averaging seven points and nine rebounds per contest — the YSU leader on the boards.

There are some intangibles Bohannon brings that you don’t see in the final box score. Could YSU have won close games against Detroit, Oakland and Green Bay with him on the floor? Possibly.

“Naz is our most consistent guy,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “There’s no debate in our program. He’s going to play really, really hard. He’s going to get rebounds. More than that, he provides a calming presence.”

The calm came after the final clearance on Saturday in the Milwaukee win. Calhoun said Bohannon took two flights and an Uber to last Thursday’s game at Green Bay. He was there in time, but was not cleared to play. The frustration continued.

Calhoun, YSU Director of Athletics Ron Strollo and men’s basketball athletic trainer Todd Burkey were constant in their thoughts — getting Bohannon 100 percent healthy on the floor was the only plan.

“Our No. 1 concern was Naz and I think we handled it pretty good,” Calhoun said. “It’s scary when you think a young man may have something like that. It’s not a knee. It’s not an ankle. It’s not an ACL. It’s your heart. Without your heart, there’s nothing that works in your body.”

Bohannon is fully cleared and will play in Thursday’s game at UIC with no restrictions. He’ll have to get checked every six months.

The only thing which came close to this scenario was his sophomore year at Lorain High School. He couldn’t take in enough air. The lungs were suspected, but it came to be it was a problem with one of his nasal passages.

He sat out practices, but not games.

Bohannon is glad to have this issue behind him and is ready to go for the last 14 regular-season games.

“To actually be back out there and be with my brothers again is a great feeling. We were ready to go,” he said.

It’s better than the alternative when Bohannon and Calhoun were sitting in the YSU men’s basketball office about two weeks ago.

“(About) nine days ago sitting in the office talking about what direction he was going to go without basketball,” Calhoun said. “It’s probably one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have with a player.

“He’s back with us playing. We’re just very, very thankful that was the outcome. We were all pretty shook up over it.”

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