Heart ailment slows NEC Rookie of the Year

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
10:53
AM ET
Julian Boyd experienced some cramping during the summer. It wasn't anything that seemed out of the ordinary, but it was enough for him to get checked out in August before classes started at Long Island University.

Turns out the physical revealed a heart murmur. Eighth-year LIU coach Jim Ferry said it was determined after further examination that Boyd's left ventricle wasn't pumping blood at the right rate.

Boyd had another MRI scheduled for Thursday to determine his next course of action. But for now, as has been the case since school started, Boyd isn't allowed to compete.

"The kids don't find out they've had a heart problem until the coroner tells him his heart is enlarged," Ferry said. "It's scary, and we're very, very fortunate to find this info out about Julian more so by accident."

Boyd, a 6-foot-7 forward out of San Antonio, was the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year in 2008-09. In 20 games, he produced an average of 10.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. He was expected to lead the upstart Blackbirds to a possible NEC title and an NCAA tournament berth after a solid 12-6 league record last season.

"He's a specimen, he's built like Superman," Ferry said. "He runs all day. He just turned 19 years old, and he was the rookie of the year hands down."

Ferry said it's too soon to say whether Boyd's career is over because the doctors are still determining whether he has a form of cardiomyopathy. It's unclear whether he would need a defibrillator implanted in his chest or medication could be the answer.

Earlier this week, Tennessee sophomore forward Emmanuel Negedu had a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest to monitor his heart's rhythm. He collapsed last week and had to be revived. Negedu will not play this season, and his career certainly is in jeopardy.

Ferry referenced two recent deaths that had him concerned about Boyd's condition: Samford senior Jim Griffin died in his sleep on Sept. 8, although the cause of death hasn't been determined, and Farmingdale (N.Y.) State College freshman Dominic Murray collapsed on the court and died Monday.

Ferry said the Blackbirds have to assume Boyd won't play this season. If that was the only issue facing this team, LIU still could be a pick to win the conference alongside Robert Morris, Mount Saint Mary's and Quinnipiac. But during the summer, before Boyd's condition became apparent, the Blackbirds lost two foreign players.

Center Aurimas Adomaitis returned to Lithuania because he had to provide for his family, Ferry said. The 6-9, 235-pounder averaged 4.9 points per game last season but was expected to play a larger role as a senior. And Argentine sophomore Lucas Faggiano, who averaged 24.3 minutes, 6.1 points and 3 assists a game, had to return home after learning his mother had cancer.

"It's been a crazy offseason, to say the least," Ferry said. "If nothing had changed, we're picked in the top one or two in this league with the chance to win the championship."

Instead, the Blackbirds will lack depth and rely heavily on newcomers, especially if Boyd cannot play this season.

"There's still a chance Julian might play, and if he does, then we'll be very, very good," Ferry said. "If he doesn't, then we'll be very, very young."

The Blackbirds still return a stellar backcourt in senior Jaytornah Wisseh (15.2 ppg) and junior Kyle Johnson (13.8 ppg). And the program has progressively improved under Ferry, going from six to seven to 12 wins in the NEC the past three seasons. LIU last played in the NCAA tournament in 1998.

"It's disheartening, but no one will feel sorry for us. We'll make the proper adjustment, get ourselves together and make a run in the conference late in the year," Ferry said. "It's so fragile, especially at this level. We can't go to the bench and get more experience. Jaytornah Wisseh is a potential player of the year, and we'll keep our fingers crossed with Julian that he's healthy."

• UCLA is confident that senior forward James Keefe will be ready for late November's 76 Classic in Anaheim. Keefe is out with a shoulder injury and likely will miss the Bruins' two exhibition games and possibly their first two home games (against Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Bakersfield). The Bruins also play Pepperdine on Nov. 23 before the 76 Classic opener against Portland on Nov. 26. Keefe was playing well in individual workouts, and the hope was he could be a low-post threat for the Bruins. UCLA is rolling out its least experienced team since Ben Howland's run of three straight Final Four seasons began in 2005.

• The NCAA wanted to clarify an issue regarding the National Letter of Intent Policy and Review Committee. When there is a coaching change, the institution decides whether to grant the release, not the NCAA. Susan Peal, the associate director of operations at the NCAA Eligibility Center, said that during the 2008-09 season, there were 668 NLI release requests out of 36,110 signees in all sports. Among the 668 requests, 70 were due to a coaching change. Of the 70, 37 were denied by their institutions.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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