What would you do if Emmanuel Negedu wanted to play for your college basketball team? That’s the same 6-7 athletic superstar who, at 225 pounds, combines a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash with a 40-inch vertical leap, the guy who was once a top-20 prep prospect, the guy who could help fill an inside need.
Here’s what you do if you’re Tom Crean and you really want him –- you let your athletic director and president make the call.
Why? Because as those in the recruiting world know, Negedu has one very big problem – a heart condition called ventricular fibrillation. It’s something that, under the high stress of major college ball, could kill him.
Again, that’s COULD, not WOULD. Still, that’s a huge risk.
First, though, a little background.
Last September, after a workout with his Tennessee team, Negedu’s heart stopped. It just shut down. He collapsed.
Medical personnel revived him with an electronic defibrillator. Doctors put in a pacemaker that monitors his heart and would shock it back if he has another episode.
Negedu didn’t play last season. Tennessee officials said they’d honor his scholarship, even if he wanted to get a post-graduate degree, but that he wouldn’t play again. He seemed fine with that –- until he got a doctor to clear him.
He wanted to play. Tennessee said no way, so he’s been seeking a school that will give him a shot. Former IU coach Kelvin Sampson once recruited him. Negedu said thanks, but no thanks. Now, things have changed. This Nigerian native has a Bloomington connection because he came to the United States via the A-Hope program run by AAU coach Mark Adams, who also directs the highly regarded Indiana Elite program based in Bloomington.
Crean is apparently considering bringing Negedu to IU. Negedu would have to be cleared by the school’s medical personnel. But even if he is, there would always be a risk. Crean couldn’t afford to push him too hard in practice for fear of another episode. And the stress and exertion in playing games could cause a problem.
You would think the potential for tragedy would far out-weigh any possible playing benefit.
And yet, Crean hasn’t said no, which doesn’t mean it will be yes, but it does create potential controversy.
The impression is only a desperate team and coach would consider playing Negedu. And when you’ve lost 20-plus games for two straight seasons, the worst stretch in school history, desperation can set in.
Negedu would certainly sign documents absolving IU of any responsibility if tragedy struck, but that might not clear the university in case of a lawsuit. The Hoosiers already have Dr. Larry Rink, a Bloomington cardiologist, on staff, but might have to add another heart specialist to avoid liability.
On one hand, if a kid wants to play, if he’s been cleared by doctors to play (you’d better believe Rink would be unbelievably thorough in his evaluation of Negedu), why not let him play. It’s his life. It should be his choice, even if it is clouded by youthful visions of invincibility.
On the other hand, does any university want to face the consequences if something bad happens? Negative publicity would be off the chart, especially if the tragedy occurred on national TV. Every game would be full of worry about what might happen. That’s why Tennessee refused to play him. It was too risky. It would not be in Negedu’s best interest, or that of the Volunteers.
That’s why Crean can’t make this call. It has to come from the ultimate university higher power.
Of course, Crean could just drop the idea and focus on 6-10 Kevin Noreen and 7-1 Guy-Marc Michel.