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John Stansberry

14 Feb

Allan Chaney: Heart and Soul

Quick, how many Division I men's basketball players are competing this season with a defibrillator attached to their hearts?  If you answered a single player, then you're correct.  The guy in question is High Point's Allan Chaney, a 6'9" forward who's a study in perseverance.

Chaney's career started off with great promise back in 2008 when he signed with Florida following a standout career at New London High in Connecticut.  Rivals.com ranked him as the #61 recruit in the nation that year.

He averaged 3.0 ppg and 2.1 rpg for the Gators during a freshman campaign in which he made two starts.  But a late season foot injury soured Chaney's first year in Gainesville, and it also didn't help that Florida coach Billy Donovan tried to turn him into a back-to-the-basket player.

That led to Chaney transferring to Virginia Tech following the 2008-09 season.  As a transfer he was required to sit out the mandatory season, and it was during an offseason workout in April of 2010, before ever actually suiting up for the Hokies, that his life changed forever. 

While playing with teammates Chaney became short of breath and then collapsed.  Luckily, a Virginia Tech trainer was on hand who administered CPR.  What followed was a series of tests that revealed that Chaney had viral myocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation around the heart.

Over the course of the summer of 2010, doctors from Charlottesville to Boston would tell Chaney that his career was over.  If he did attempt to play again and stress his heart even further he would become another tragic case like Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis and others before him.

But in the fall of 2010 Chaney came under the care of Dr. Francis Marchlinski, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.  Marchlinski told Chaney that not only could he treat his condition but could get him cleared to play basketball again.

What Marchlinski had in mind was to implant a defibrillator into Chaney's chest, something that wasn't without precedence.  Nearly a decade ago, Will Kimble played two seasons for UTEP with a defibrillator implanted in his left shoulder.  He experienced no cardiac episodes during his time as a Miner.

The implantation of a defibrillator guards against are the irregular heartbeats that could spell death if left unchecked.  In November of 2011, Marchlinski implanted one into Chaney's chest.

However, that wasn't the end of the procedures that Chaney would have to endure.  He would undergo two more ablations, which were necessary to remove scar tissue from around his heart to allow the defibrillator to operate effectively.

Keep in mind while he was enduring all this, Chaney was still attending classes at Virginia Tech.  This went on long enough for him to get his degree.

Finally, on May 18, 2012, Marchlinski cleared Chaney to play.  But despite the fact that he still had eligibility left, Virginia Tech refused to allow him back into the fold.  This was despite Chaney's willingness to sign a waiver.

It was High Point that finally reached out to Chaney and extended him a scholarship after he met with some local cardiologists.  And this is how a former Gatorade Player of the Year from the state of Connecticut came to play basketball at a Big South school while pursuing a graduate degree in nonprofit management.

His performance on the court in the wake of his trials has garnered Chaney national attention.  He's averaged 14.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg while helping High Point to a 9-3 record in the Big South to this point in the season.

High Point coach Scott Cherry spoke with College Insider's Joe Dwyer recently and marveled at Chaney's progress.  "He went over a thousand days without playing the game of basketball," Cherry said.  "For him to be out here playing and being a part of our program says a lot for him."

The good news keeps coming for Chaney as he's been granted a sixth year of eligibility.  So this feel good story will continue into 2013-14. 

college insider Contributors
John Stansberry

John has been toiling for College Insider in some capacity since the Clinton Administration.  The Auburn grad loves re-watching "The Big Lebowski" while despising postseason basketball tournaments that invite teams with losing records.  His snarkier side can be found at LonelyTailgater.com. 

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