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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

SHS student overcomes heart condition, returns to game

Friday, February 27, 2004

Sikeston Senior High School junior Drew Cole recovers after diving for a ball.
SIKESTON -- The basketball comes off of the rim and appears to be falling right toward two Fredericktown basketball players, each standing over 6-feet-3. Just as they are about to grab the rebound Sikeston's Drew Cole, all 5-foot-11 inches of him, jumps into the fray, knocking the ball to floor.

As the ball bounces to a Fredericktown player, Cole dives to the ground and tries to rip the ball away from his opponent, causing a jump ball and giving possession back to Sikeston.

Scenes like this are common for the Sikeston junior, causing many fans to acknowledge that he plays with a lot of heart. However, it was Cole's heart that almost cost him his playing career.

It began in December when Cole's heart rate began accelerating when he was not doing anything.

"I was sitting in class one day and my heart rate raced up to 225," Cole said. "I went to St. Louis and found out I had an extra pathway in my heart which allows my electrical impulse to take a different pathway. That causes my heart rate to accelerate without doing anything."

Cole had never had any problems previously with his heart and the sudden problem caught him by surprise.

"My doctor said I was born with it," Cole said. "Usually it doesn't hit people until they are 16 or 17."

The solution was surgery. He thought that his basketball career was over.

"The heart is a serious thing to be dealing with," Cole said. "I didn't want it to end my basketball career but they said if I tried hard and participated with everything that was going on I could get back."

Cole was taken to St. Louis where he had a catheter inflation procedure on his heart.

"They had to take catheters through veins in my legs," Cole said. "It was about a three hour surgery and I had to lay still for six hours and then I left the next day."

The surgery on his heart came as a shock to Cole's coaches and teammates who had grown used to seeing him dive on the floor for loose balls and battle taller opponents for rebounds.

"When they first told me about (the heart problem) I was very concerned about him and when they told me that he had to have surgery and I was very worried," said junior teammate Marcus McCaster. "Then he came back and we had a team meeting and he told us how much he wanted us to win and play hard and that he would be back soon."

Be back soon he would. Just 10 days after surgery on his heart, Cole was back at practice.

"The thing about Drew is he is such a competitor and he works very hard every day," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "He was going to do everything he could to get back and compete and it speaks so highly of him because of his character and his work ethic."

Even though he was a competitor, Holifield was still surprised at how short of a time he was out.

"I didn't have any idea how long it would take but I knew if there was any way possible he would get back," Holifield said. "But he got back even quicker than I thought."

Once back, Cole began easing back into practice and eventually back into the Bulldog lineup.

"I just had a little stiffness and I was just trying to get back into things, trying to maneuver my legs and get them back to the way they were," Cole said. "They are still not the way they were but I am trying each and every day to get them back."

After missing five games, Cole began by playing just limited minutes in his first few games before having a breakout game against Jackson on Jan. 27.

Cole, who had not scored all season, scored six points and had several crucial rebounds in a tight loss against a Jackson team that just weeks earlier had won the seMissourian Christmas Tournament.

Then on Jan. 31 he had nine points and five rebounds against a Portageville team that is generally considered one of the best in the area.

"He just had heart surgery and he's out there busting his butt," McCaster said. "He is only like 5-feet-10 and he is out there playing as tough as he is -- it has to inspire you."

Cole's top scoring game of the year came against Oran when he scored 10 points and was the Bulldogs' second leading scorer.

"I consider him blessed," said fellow teammate, junior Tyler Woodson. "To come off something like he did and still want to play for a team and keep it strong, I think that is something. He gives us a lot of inspiration to keep fighting."

Following Cole's example, the Bulldogs continued to fight through a season filled with adversity. After winning only five regular season games, Sikeston won their first game of the Class 4, District 1 Tournament Monday and fought to the very end against Fredericktown Wednesday night before falling 64-56.

While the loss ended the Bulldog season at 6-18, Cole realizes what a privilege it is to play the game.

"It definitely made me see what I have," Cole said. "You never know what you have until you don't have it. Now I just try to take opportunities when they are given to me."