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Utah St. player who collapsed hopes to play again

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Utah St. player who collapsed hopes to play again

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) A Utah State basketball player who nearly died after collapsing during practice Tuesday is expected to be able play again.

Danny Berger collapsed during practice in Logan and fell into cardiac arrest. The team's trainer revived him using a defibrillator.

Doctors have inserted a small defibrillator underneath Berger's skin in his chest that would kick into action and restart his heart if it stops again. His left arm will remain in a sling for three weeks because of the defibrillator. After that, doctors say he should be cleared to play again.

``If I everything goes right, it seems like I'll have a full recovery,'' the 22-year-old Berger said Friday during a press conference.

Berger will be released from the hospital Saturday and plans to go to Utah State's Saturday night game against Western Oregon.

Doctors cannot fully explain what caused the collapse, but said he was born with a tendency for this to happen because of his heart having two to three extra beats, said Dr. Jared Brunch of the Intermountain Medical Center.

Tests show that playing basketball shouldn't be a problem for Berger, Brunch said. When he does play again, doctors will be monitoring the heart remotely via the defibrillator. Other college basketball players have played with defibrillators in place, Brunch said.

``By all means, we want him to go back and play,'' Brunch said. ``He's played at a high level of basketball for over 16 years, so his heart most of the time recovers nicely.''

Doctors have not been able to fully explain why Berger collapsed, Brunch said. Berger said he has never experienced anything like what happened, and knows nothing of any pre-existing condition.

The near-death experience has made Berger reflect on the frailty of life and strengthened his belief in God. Berger is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

``I can't deny the hand of God in the whole situation,'' he said. ``I know for a fact that he used people to still have me here. There is a purpose why I'm here.''

This was the first time Berger has spoken to the media since the collapse.

Berger was upgraded Thursday to ``fair'' condition and moved out of the intensive care unit at a Salt Lake City area hospital. He has been in critical condition since being flown there by helicopter Tuesday.

Berger said he remembers what happened up until his collapse, which he said felt like standing up too fast from bed and feeling light headed. His next memory was waking up in a hospital.

Dr. Brunch said it's remarkable that Berger survived - at least more than half of people whose hearts stop die. Every minute, survival possibilities go down by 10 percent, he said. Berger's heart wasn't functioning for 30 seconds, Brunch said.

Brunch said this case shows the importance of having the automated external defibrillator, known as AEDs, around at gyms and public areas.

Longtime Utah State assistant athletic trainer Mike Williams used that device within a minute or two after Berger went into cardiac arrest. That quick action has been credited with saving Berger's life.

Berger said Williams didn't have the device on top of the water cooler like usual, but team manager Jesse Parker sprinted up a tunnel at the basketball arena and brought it back down to the court quickly. Parker is Berger's roommate.

``Before he hit even the ground, I was already out of my chair sprinting up the tunnel,'' Parker said Friday.

Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill also spoke for the first time Friday, saying his visits with Berger have been emotional.

``I'm an old bird. I don't know if I'm a tough old bird, but I'm definitely an old bird and things like this are hard. The fact that he's doing so much better has made it bearable. It's emotional,'' Morrill said.

Morrill discussed those visits as his team prepared to play Saturday against Western Oregon - the Aggies' first game since Berger collapsed.

Morrill said his own heart ached seeing Berger three straight days at a Salt Lake City-area hospital.

Morrill said he nearly lost it when Berger was regaining consciousness.

``He thanked me for coming,'' Morrill recalled. ``That one about got me. Yeah right, like it was a big deal for me to come. He's just an awfully, awfully good kid.''

Danny Berger was born in Fort Collins, Colo., and went to high school in Medford, Ore. He played basketball at Chemeketa Community College in Oregon before coming to play for Utah State. The junior is a starter at forward and averages 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Berger's family has been with him at the hospital since Tuesday. Evidence of his improvement was visible in a photo a friend tweeted Thursday showing Berger flashing a ``thumbs up'' sign while surrounded by family members.

Aggies students have organized a campaign to send Berger get-well cards and should be in full force to show their support for the team Saturday night, even if Berger remains hospitalized.

Morrill said getting back to practice has been ``therapeutic'' for the team and coaches after they witnessed the incident.

``The fact that Danny's doing better has made it seem like it's time to go back to the practice floor,'' Morrill said.

He said it's been 10 days since the team last played and that it will be interesting to see how players respond in a game considering all that has happened.

They returned to practice Thursday.

``The kids were a little rusty, but in good spirits and had about as good a workout as you could expect,'' Morrill said.

Utah State, meanwhile, continues working with Brigham Young officials to find a suitable date to reschedule the rivalry game that was postponed Wednesday because of what happened to Berger.

``As I've said, they've been great in this situation,'' Morrill said. ``It's just a dilemma right now with conference play around the corner and both of us having full schedules. Finals week is next week and that was looked at. We're trying to look at all the options, but that's the stage we're in right now. We have not found a date that works yet.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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