Wisconsin basketball will be short yet another player, now that true freshman Latrell Fleming will be unable to play as a result of a heart condition.
Fleming collapsed during team workouts and momentarily passed out, stopping the team’s conditioning run and giving the coaches and players a scare. UW trainers referred him to team physician Dr. David Bernhardt.
After specialists examined Fleming’s heart, head coach Bo Ryan announced he had been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition, present in one in every 500 adults in the general public, is a disorder characterized by an enlargement of the heart muscle and thickening of the walls of the left ventricle, which restricts blood flow to the brain and important bodily organs according to Bernhardt.
He described Fleming’s problem as “long-term,” as opposed to an injury that can be rehabilitated.
“This is something he’s going to have to live with the rest of his life,” Bernhardt said.
His teammates will need to get used to life without him. Fleming could not be reached for comment, but indications from UW sports information suggest he may continue to remain part of the team as an undergraduate assistant.
Ryan said Fleming would be in the team’s mind even when he’s not on the court with them.
“Our concern right now is with Latrell’s health and in getting him the medical attention he needs,” Ryan said. “He and his family have the full support of our basketball program and our athletic department.”
Ryan went on to say that Fleming had been developing splendidly during pre-season drills.
The 6-foot-2 guard was expected to be an impact player, along with freshman Devin Harris. Fleming was a prep standout at John Marshall in Milwaukee. His absence will be missed on a Badgers team already lacking in depth.
Five seniors, the core of a team that went to the Final Four in 2000, graduated in 2001. Then, numerous underclassmen departed when the Wisconsin athletic department swapped former interim head coach Brad Soderberg with Ryan, shifting away from the Dick Bennett lineage that had recruited them.
Consequently, Ryan already had his hands full, forced to tack together an extraordinarily inexperienced squad following three of the most successful years in the program’s history.
Less than a month ago, sophomore Julian Swartz decided to permanently leave the team after sitting out the previous season.
Fleming’s situation not only contributes to the challenges facing the basketball program, but adds to one of the most bizarre sports stories of the year.
Several athletes died earlier this summer under various situations of training, prompting increased concern about too-rigorous conditioning methods.
Fleming’s episode was unusual because it included passing out. Bernhardt said most people encounter other warning signs before the condition gets so serious.
Generally, patients under 35 suffering from the problem are athletes; strenuous exercise causes the condition to manifest itself earlier.
However, Bernhardt cautioned, Fleming’s complication was not caused by training too hard. He said intensity of the workout would not have been a factor in preventing the condition from manifesting.