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Utah St. coach has emotional visit with ill player

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill said Friday his visits with a player who collapsed on the court during practice have been emotional, bearable only because Danny Berger is much improved and in "fair" condition.

Morrill discussed those visits as his team prepared to play Saturday against Western Oregon - the Aggies' first game since the 22-year-old Berger collapsed Tuesday. Longtime Utah State assistant athletic trainer Mike Williams is credited with saving Berger's life after he went into cardiac arrest.

Morrill said his own heart ached seeing Berger three straight days at a Salt Lake City-area hospital.

"I'm an old bird. I don't know if I'm a tough old bird, but I'm definitely an old bird and things like this are hard. The fact that he's doing so much better has made it bearable. It's emotional," Morrill said.

He said he nearly lost it when Berger was regaining consciousness.

"He thanked me for coming," Morrill recalled. "That one about got me. Yeah right, like it was a big deal for me to come. He's just an awfully, awfully good kid."

A spokesman for Intermountain Medical Center in Murray said Berger remains in fair condition. He was upgraded Thursday and moved out of the intensive care unit, where he had been listed in stable but critical condition after being flown there by helicopter on Tuesday.

Berger's family is with him. Evidence of his improvement was visible in a photo a friend tweeted out showing Berger flashing a "thumbs up" sign while surrounded by family members.

Aggies students have organized a campaign to send Berger get well cards and should be in full force to show their support for the team Saturday night, even if Berger remains hospitalized.

Morrill said getting back to practice has been "therapeutic" for the team and coaches after they witnessed the incident.

"The fact that Danny's doing better has made it seem like it's time to go back to the practice floor," Morrill said.

He said it's been 10 days since the team last played and that it will be interesting to see how players respond in a game considering all that has happened.

They returned to practice Thursday.

"The kids were a little rusty, but in good spirits and had about as good a workout as you could expect," Morrill said.

Utah State, meanwhile, continues working with Brigham Young officials to find a suitable date to reschedule the rivalry game that was postponed Wednesday because of what happened to Berger.

"As I've said, they've been great in this situation," Morrill said. "It's just a dilemma right now with conference play around the corner and both of us having full schedules. Finals week is next week and that was looked at. We're trying to look at all the options, but that's the stage we're in right now. We have not found a date that works yet."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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