Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:20 am

Bradley senior back after last year's heart scare

By Matt Norlander

There is a bittersweet element -– and that may be severely understating it -- to the fact Taylor Brown can confidently and safely play basketball once again.

The Bradley senior was cleared to return, full-time, to the team this month after nearly a year away from the game. The reason he was forced to sit to begin with? The death of Phil Kaiser.

Kaiser died last October. He was 21 years old and a member of Bradley’s baseball team. He suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that gives the heart an irregular rhythm and thickens muscle tissue surrounding -– and essentially suffocating --the organ. 

In the wake of Kaiser’s death, Bradley’s doctors and trainers immediately called for heart check-ups of every player at the school. Turns out Brown had a heart murmur spotted during his sophomore year. From the get-go, he didn’t stand a chance to play. Brown still remembers the dates last year when his heart’s stability came into question.

“The tests were on Oct. 19 and 20,” he said. Two weeks later, he was given the news: cardiomyopathy may be an eventual diagnosis. Given the high level of sensitivity at the school, Brown was immediately put on the shelf. He didn’t want to believe it, of course. So he spent many nights performing amateur research projects in his dorm room. He eventually flew up to the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for more tests and opinions.

“I found out the Wednesday before the first game on the Thursday,” Brown said. Doctors weren’t certain he had cardiomyopathy, but the only way for them to find out was to sit him completely for a three-month time period. Forget playing in games; Brown couldn’t so much as break a sweat in his down time. The extent of his interaction with his teammates was shooting free throws in practice.

Through the first six weeks of his wait, Brown said he tried to learn a new appreciation for the game and team workouts, and he did do that, but there was still hope he’d come back for the second half of the season. His mind wandered to the future often, with images of him back on the court distracting him from his situation as it stood. And as you’ll see in the video below -– which is essentially a trailer for a documentary that’s being made on Taylor’s journey -– the news wasn’t good. 

The news got good early in 2011. At the end of the team’s 12-20 season, Brown traveled to the Minneapolis Heart Institute to get an updated prognosis on his condition. He was told his heart was healthy. The muscle mass surrounding the heart had decreased, and he was cleared to begin light workouts in June.

But while the good news for him came, there were two other faraway notices that kept his happiness and check and further emphasized to him how delicate his situation could be.

“When I was in St. Louis for the MVC tournament, that’s when the story about the young guy (Fenville High’s Wes Leonard) passed away in Detroit,” Brown said. “His cousin’s in our conference, at Missouri State (Adam Leonard), and it made me think about it a lot. Me and my father was also talking about a girl that was running track and suddenly died. It was surreal going through that, and even though there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I felt a connection to those people.”

Brown said he was about 60 to 70 percent back by May. It was then when the treadmill power walks and ball-handling drills initiated his return to hoops. In June, he and trainers were really breaking sweats and breaking back into the drills.

Despite the precaution and the scare, Brown said he’s not hesitant about playing now and doesn’t worry about suffering a heart-related issue on the court. He was never scared that something might be wrong. 

“Maybe throughout the time I was sitting I was thinking more [negatively] then, but since I have been back and playing, that’s been the last thing on my mind,” he said. “The whole time I was sitting, being with my family, we knew nothing was wrong with me and the athletic heart was going to shrink. When I’m out there now, I really don’t think of my heart this and my heart that.”

Now the challenge is getting in peak physical shape for his final go-round. Brown is 205 pounds again –- the weight he was during his sophomore year –- but it’s a softer 205, since he ballooned up 25 pounds during his time away from the game. The 6-6 forward has a 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game average in his career.

Photo: Bob Hunt, courtesy of Bradley Athletics
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 6:13 pm

Coach Speak: Les out, Lickliter in at Bradley?

Jim Les is out despite a Sweet Sixteen run at Bradley

Posted by Eric Angevine

Hot Seat

We’ve come to the time of year when the coaching carousel really gets going. Postseason tournament losses will lead to a few coaches being unceremoniously pushed off the merry-go-round over the next few days. Here’s a link to help you keep track of who’s out, who’s interim, and who eventually gets the job.

The latest firing is so fresh, we might as well dig into it right now. Bradley University has fired Jim Les (above), the coach who engineered a Sweet 16 run in 2006, after an early loss in the Missouri Valley tournament. His Braves famously beat No. 4 seed Kansas and No. 5 Pitt before their run was ended by Memphis in ’06, but it was an issue of diminishing returns thereafter that cost Les his job after nine seasons. He made the second round of the NIT in ’07, the CBI finals in ’08 and the CIT finals in ’09. The past two seasons, it was losing records and no postseason play at all.

Les seems like someone who will catch on elsewhere fairly soon. Plenty of programs are going to want a guy with a second-weekend NCAA tournament run on his resume. As for a possible replacement, Jeff Rabjohns of the Indianapolis Star tweeted this possibility this morning: “I've heard former Butler coach Todd Lickliter's name in connection with the Bradley job. Lickliter led Butler to 2 Sweet 16s.” Lickliter has been out of work for a year after a brutal stretch at Iowa, and he’d be a great get for this program.

**UPDATE: Dennis Dodd is reporting that Texas Tech head coach Pat Knight has been fired and will depart after the Big 12 tournament. Additionally, Kennesaw State of the Atlantic Sun conference has fired head coach Tony Ingle, and CAA cellar-dweller Towson will be without the services of Pat Kennedy, who 'resigned'.**

Quotable Coaches

This week, we’re all about giving the mic to some guys who’ve clinched their tickets to the Big Dance.

“This is tremendous, and I can't be prouder of the way our guys played. Our inside guys played great defense on their post players and our wing men did a great job of coming down and pressuring the ball,”

-Asheville head coach Ed Biedenbach gives a tactical assessment of how his Bulldogs beat 1-seed Coastal Carolina in the Big South final.

“I don’t really know what to say about this team. Thirty wins, it just was not even thought about.”

-Belmont coach Rick Byrd shows his humble side after destroying North Florida in the A-Sun final.

"I thought before the season, he was the most talented guard in our league," Morehead Coach Donnie Tyndall said. "I pleaded with him to be aggressive. Tonight, you saw what he can do when he does. He came up huge."

-Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall deflects a little of Kenneth Faried’s sunshine onto Faried’s roomate, senior guard Demonte Harper, who scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished 8 assists to lead his team back to the NCAA tournament.

“Really, all my thoughts were basically I wanted it so bad for these guys. They deserve it. Like I said, there’s never been a more deserving group of guys, and that they get to enjoy this means the world to me.”

-Rookie Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing, after upsetting top seed Missouri State in the Missouri Valley final.

And, while we're talking about the Missouri Valley, huge hat tip to MSUBearNation, who shared this link to an emotional, inspirational coach of the year acceptance speech delivered by Cuonzo Martin:

We don't know if Martin's Bears will make the NCAA cut or not, but we know he's tough enough to handle it, whichever way the ball bounces. Missouri State is lucky to have him.

Photo: US Presswire
More College Basketball coverage
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com