Virginia Tech announced Wednesday that forward Allan Chaney will not be medically cleared to play basketball at the school, closing a 16-month saga that began with Chaney collapsing during an offseason workout and ended with the Baltimore native never playing a game during his time in Blacksburg.
The 6-foot-9 Florida transfer said Wednesday evening he will try to play at another college or perhaps attempt to sign with a professional team overseas if he can’t gain medical clearance elsewhere.
Chaney was initially found to have myocarditis, a virus of the heart, after collapsing in April 2010, and subsequently developed scarring around his heart. With doctors unable to figure out exactly what went wrong, Chaney sat out the entire 2010 season. In May, he visited a University of Pennsylvania heart specialist Francis Marchlinski and underwent a nine-hour electrophysiology procedure (EP study) in which Marchlinski went “through my groin to get to my heart to fix up the scar tissue,” Chaney said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Chaney said ultimately Virginia Tech’s decision not to clear him came down to the school’s sports medicine department being reticent about him playing with a defibrillator. Chaney said Marchlinski told Virginia Tech officials during a follow-up appointment that he would have granted the 6-foot-9 junior medical clearance to play basketball if he had a defibrillator inserted into his heart.
Marchlinski “feels the defibrillator is there just for insurance, just in case,” Chaney said. “He said that ‘just in case’ can be that two percent chance of me having a problem, or that one percent. But he can never say it’s 100 percent healed even though he had a successful surgery.
“The one thing, I feel like Tech could have at least let me get the defribrillator and then work me out to see how it was,” Chaney added. “But I understand. I’m not mad at anybody. I appreciate Tech in a lot of ways, man. Without them I probably wouldn’t be considered to play again.”
In a school-issued statement, team physician Mark Rogers said Chaney was not cleared “due to persistent complications from myocarditis, this will not allow us to medically clear him to play basketball.” This past weekend, Coach Seth Greenberg told reporters that the decision would come down to a team of doctors, not just one opinion.
At times once Chaney arrived on campus in the fall of 2009, Greenberg called him a potential “first-round draft pick.” Even after being diagnosed with myocarditis, Chaney said he often participated in the team’s warm-up drills, and even ran the floor and dunked in front of reporters during the ACC Tournament last March.
Chaney said Coach Seth Greenberg has become “like a father figure to me” during this process, and Chaney said the coach wants him to stay at Virginia Tech under scholarship until he gets the defibrillator.
Added Greenberg in a statement: “Allan Chaney has been through a great deal in the last year and a half. Everyone involved in our basketball program feels for him. Unfortunately, this rare condition will prevent him from continuing his career here at Virginia Tech. We will do everything in our power to assist Allan as he goes through his next procedure and support him in every way possible.”
“There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered and I think we’re moving along fine as far as me being able to play overseas or at another college,” said Chaney, who added he wants to get a defibrillator as soon as possible. “As far as me playing here at Tech, it’s done.”
Greenberg has been very circumspect with details about Chaney ever since his collapse, so below you’ll find a good chunk of the transcript from my interview with Chaney. He goes into great detail about what exactly the past 16 months have been like. We certainly appreciate him being so forthcoming.
Give us a brief rundown of what’s happened over the past 16 months
“When I first had the problem back on April , the myocarditis caused scar tissue around the heart. And from me having that scar tissue, that was giving me a bad heartbeat. I was having these arrhythmias. The scar tissue was causing this. So I saw a few doctors and a couple of them thought there was too much for them to get. There was too much scar tissue to clean up. But when I met with Dr. Marchlinski in Philadelphia, and he said he was pretty sure he could do something to help me, but he’s not sure how much he could get out, because it was a large amount in there. So May 24 of this year we had the EP study scheduled. I got the EP study done – nine hours of surgery or nine hours under whatever you call that study thing – and he woke me up and said, ‘Surgery went really well,’ and that he got all of the scar tissue. It’s kind of surprising because we weren’t really expecting that. So after getting all the scar tissue, that basically put me in a position where I could say, ‘I’m gonna play again.’”
Has the scar tissue come back?
“[Marchlinski] is saying that he’s not 100 percent sure. He can’t say that even though he feels like I’m 100 percent. I went through the stress test, I did all that stuff. I basically knocked it out. I went 15 minutes on the treadmill. Basically I did everything you could think of.”
So did Marchlinski clear you right now?
“We were all in the room. Me, my father, Coach Greenberg, Dr. Rogers, we were all in the room and Dr. Rogers asked him, ‘If Allan were to have the defibrillator put in, would he be cleared to play?’ And [Marchlinski] said, ‘Yes,’ he would clear me to play. I’m happy about that, that he would give me clearance. Of course, I’m sad. I’m really, really upset that I’m not gonna be able to play with any of these guys. Coach Greenberg has kind of been like a father figure to me. It’s gonna be sad to leave, but right now I have to do what’s best for me and my family.”
So the deciding factor was the defibrillator?
“I think that was a big part. Like I said, the doctor in Philadelphia said once I get the defibrillator I’ll be cleared to go because the defibrillator isn’t there because it’s helping my heart beat or anything like that. We had a successful operation an EP study and he feels the defibrillator is there just for insurance, just in case. He said that ‘just in case’ can be that two percent chance of me having a problem, or that one percent. But he can never say it’s 100 percent healed even though he had a successful surgery. But like I said, without [Virginia Tech] I wouldn’t even be in this position. They’re still helping me right now.”
Are you going to leave Virginia Tech and continue to pursue a basketball career?
“Ultimately, yeah, I want to play, so that’s why I appreciate Tech and everything they did for me. They actually got me in this position, so I’m not mad about anything. I’m not at anyone personally at Tech. I figured this would happen anyways, so I kind of prepared myself for it. And I feel like the one thing I feel like Tech could have at least let me get the defribrillator and then work me out to see how it was. But I understand. I knew what was gonna happen from the jump, that they wouldn’t clear me. So I’m not mad at anybody. I appreciate Tech in a lot of ways, man. Without them I probably wouldn’t be considered to play again.”
What are your options now?
“The options now, first we have to get the timetable for the defibrillator. And say if I were to get the defibrillator next month, and Coach [Greenberg] wants me to stay here until I get everything medically taken care of. Then, he says I could look for another school or stay here and graduate next year, and then go try to play professional overseas or something. So I have a few options, which is cool. But ultimately I would want the defibrillator ASAP and then play college somewhere. I’ll play anywhere at this point.”
At the ACC Tournament I watched you run and dunk during warm-ups, is all this still mystery to you?
“The thing about me is I’m probably a little different as far as I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of college players that eat healthy, does those type of things. But I feel like with the position I’m in, I’m gonna be behind the eight ball, not playing two years and all that. So what I decided to do was clean up my diet, watch what I eat. I can’t really do everything that everybody else is doing because like I said, they’re perfectly healthy. They don’t have any problems. So I really feel like me changing that, that gave that doctor a chance to have a successful EP study.
“If I hadn’t had that successful EP study, it changed everything for be basically. Because the scarring issue was a big thing for me coming in. They said that if I didn’t get the scar tissue cleaned up, basically, I was at risk to die at any moment. I could die just walking, not just running. It was a mystery, because like you said, at the ACC tournament, I was warming up and I’d been doing that for several months and I never had a problem. It’s mind boggling, but that was before the surgery. There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered and I think we’re moving along fine as far as me being able to play overseas or at another college. As far as me playing here at Tech, it’s done.”
Are you going to stay at Virginia Tech this semester or leave right away?
“Coach [Greenberg], he said he wants me to stay here until everything is figured out because he feels like Tech knows what’s going on with me and he doesn’t really want me going anywhere else right away until I get everything situated. Until I get my defibrillator, the doctors clear me, and then I’ll take it from there, whether I’m gonna go to another school or if I’m going to wait and try to graduate.”
Are they keeping you on scholarship?