The Wichita State men's basketball team has gone on a magical run through the regular season, going 34-0 and earning to top seed in the Midwest Regional for the NCAA tournament. And, despite not being able to contribute at the capacity he would've liked, D.J. Bowles has been there the whole way.
The freshman, who prepped at both Notre Dame and Cleveland, had his season cut short after collapsing during a September practice. After being transported to the hospital, Bowles was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for surgery.
Surgeons had to install an implantable cardioverter defibrillator into Bowles, which is a device implanted in the chest or abdomen to treat irregular heartbeats, using electrical pulses or shocks.
Wichita State denied Bowles medical clearance to return after the procedure, but will honor his four-year scholarship. The Shockers will face the winner of tonight's "First Four" game between Cal Poly and Texas Southern on Friday at 7:10 in St. Louis.
Attempts to reach Bowles, as well as head coach Gregg Marshall, were unsuccessful.
"This young man has spent his whole life trying to become a basketball player, and he is a really good player," Marshall said in a September news release. "More importantly, he's a super nice kid from a great family. We're doing our due diligence to make sure we can best serve him for the rest of his life, not just his career."
Bowles is one of three area athletes that will have teams participating in the NCAA tournament. McMinn Central's Elizabeth Masengil is a 5-foot-11 freshman guard at the University of Tennessee-Martin, which earned a 13 seed and will face the North Carolina (24-9) on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Masengil, who won Class AA Miss Basketball her final two seasons with the Chargerettes, helped the Lady Seahawks (24-7) win the Ohio Valley Conference. She averaged 6.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while earning 18 starts in 28 games.
Ruta Savickaite, a 6-foot-4 center who prepped at Hamilton Heights, now plays at Western Kentucky, which rallied to defeat Arkansas State 61-60 for the Sun Belt Conference championship. Savickaite appeared in 17 games in a reserve role for the Lady Hilltoppers (24-8), who are a 15 seed and travel to Waco, Texas, to face Baylor (29-4) Sunday at 3 p.m.
Four coaches with area ties are taking their teams to the NCAA tournament: Wichita State's Jody Adams, whose Lady Shockers are a 14 seed facing Penn State Sunday at 12:30 in University Park, Pa.; Wright State's Mike Bradbury, whose Lady Raiders will play 3 seed Kentucky prior to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's game against Syracuse; and N.C. State's Wes Moore, UTC's previous head coach whose Lady Wolfpack are a 5 seed facing BYU in Los Angeles Saturday at 6:30.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.