Gallagher column: Roaming the county
Roaming the county getting ready for tonight ...
LANDIS — Sometime tonight, you might see this South Rowan Raider, wearing No. 34, make an athletic move, perhaps soaring for a rebound or shooting a picture-perfect 15-footer against rival Carson.
You’ll say to yourself, “That kid looks like a basketball player.”
Lavon Hill, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, sure does. What’s amazing is that he’s a basketball player at all.
Back on August 15th, Hill had heart surgery.
His first game was during the Sam Moir Christmas Classic. That’s a quick turnaround.
“Doctors gave him full clearance,” South coach Bryan Withers said.”It’s still scary to his mom and to myself. You think about it constantly.”
Hill’s reaction?“I’m fine.”•Last year, during a jayvee game, Withers knew his star player wasn’t fine when Hill came staggering over to him.
“I remember watching him and he wasn’t playing well,” Withers said. “He was standing there but it was like he was about to fall over. I called him to the sidelines.”
Hill also knew something was wrong.
“I was dizzy and felt pressure in my left ear,” he said. “I couldn’t hear.”
“He was looking at my mouth because he couldn’t hear me,” Withers added. “He started leaning toward me and fell in my arms.”
Withers was having flashbacks to Hank Gathers, a well-documented story of a star college player who collapsed on the court and later died.
“So many things crossed my mind,” he said. “You’re talking about a freshman kid.”
Withers wasn’t taking any chances. He sat him down. Hill’s day was done, of course.
“That kinda made me mad,” Hill smiles now. “I wanted to play.”
Withers urged Hill’s mother to get him checked out. The diagnosis?
“I had an enlarged heart, a heart murmur and a hole in my valve,” Hill noted.
His career seemed over. He had surgery and was told he’d miss eight weeks of school. He was back three days later.
“I was like, ‘Are you supposed to be here,’ ” Withers said.
Hill is obviously a special kid. A doctor told him at first the signs weren’t good as far as an athletic career.
“When he told me I wouldn’t be able to play basketball, my heart dropped,” Hill said. “I was scared. I had the surgery. I just wanted it to be over with.”
After the surgery, doctors finally OK’d his return. Slowly but surely, he began rounding back into shape. He scored on a pretty baseline jumper in the Christmas tournament against West Rowan and he has scored in South’s last three games, including nine in a 71-38 rout of West Iredell.
“I want to build his minutes,” Withers said. “As you play him short minutes and he gets stronger, he builds on it, and you gain confidence in him a little more.”
Perhaps the West Iredell game proves Hill is ready for a larger role.
“He could always score,” Withers said. “Now that he’s healthy, he is going to turn into a fabulous player if he keeps working.”
After what he has been through, working hard shouldn’t be a problem for Hill. He is already showing how much heart he has.
And how strong that heart is.•Tonight’s game at South should be a good one, especially if the Raiders play like we know they can. Carson’s only two North Piedmont Conference losses are to league-leading Statesville, both in overtime. The Cougars are playing well.
•Who is suddenly the hottest boys team out there? Jason Causby’s Hornet boys, who have won two straight. Causby thinks his team is turning it around and a win tonight would be a big statement. The Hornets are headed to Central Davidson, which is undefeated in the Central Carolina Conference.
• What girls team is on a roll? How about North Rowan, which won three games last week, scoring over 70 once, and over 90 in another game. Coach Brian Lytton has done as good a coaching job as anyone in the county.
• In Granite Quarry, the East Rowan girls can do West Rowan and Carson a big favor by knocking off North Iredell. The Raiders are in a three-way tie for first in the North Piedmont Conference.
• The powerful North Rowan boys will make the 84-mile trip to Bear Creek to meet Chatham Central.
• Reynolds is going to Davie.• On Wednesday, West Rowan’s boys, who are tied for second place with Carson, plays host to Statesville.
Go watch some high school basketball, folks. And be nice.
•Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.