PLUCK OF THE IRISH
After missing two seasons because of a rare heart abnormality, Notre Dame senior forward Monty Williams isn't the same player he was before the condition was detected. He's better.
Williams, who received medical clearance last August to play again, has established himself as the Irish's top scorer and rebounder. His averages of 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds at week's end were far better than the 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds he averaged as a freshman in 1989-90. "It's not surprising to me," says the 6'9" Williams, who grew two inches while sidelined. "Just because I didn't play with the team doesn't mean I didn't play. I tried to keep my game together."
That's because he never believed his career was over. Before the 1990-91 season he was given a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a disease that causes a thickening of the muscle wall between the chambers of the heart. Doctors believed extreme physical exertion could put Williams at risk of sudden death.
"I didn't handle it too well at first," Williams says. "I was angry at my situation, and I took it out on other people. I was getting into arguments all the time." His condition was even more frustrating because he felt no symptoms.
Doctors cleared Williams last summer after new research by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., classified HCM patients into various risk groups. Williams was found to be in an extremely low risk group, largely because he had no symptoms of arrhythmia or family history of sudden death. Still, he and his family have signed waivers releasing Notre Dame from any liability claims.
"I knew I would put on a uniform again," says Williams. "I love basketball, and I've never played it with fear."
Without its two leading scorers, guards Herb Jones and Anthony Buford, from last year's Final Four team, Cincinnati looked as if it might be a one-shot wonder. But the Bearcats, with a 9-1 record and a No. 16 ranking at week's end, are not doing too badly this season, either. Their success is all the more surprising because of the unexpected—and unnecessary—loss of another 1991-92 starter, 6'10" center Corie Blount, who was ruled ineligible last summer. Blount, who should be in the middle of his senior season, is entangled in a web of NCAA red tape.
Blount's situation is the result of the medical redshirt year he took as a freshman at Rancho Santiago ( Calif.) College in 1988-89, when he broke his foot after having played four games. He played the following two seasons at Rancho Santiago. Under NCAA regulations at the time, a junior college medical hardship season counted as a year of eligibility, not as a redshirt year. So Blount was left with only one year of Division I eligibility, which he used last season at Cincinnati.