Glen Dean always had a grip on the basketball, and his future.
That hold was loosened last spring when he lost his coach, and pried away completely less than two months ago when dizziness and loss of vision put him in a Salt Lake City hospital for brain surgery.
It was hard to grasp.
“When you get news like that that, it’s tough, because you’re an athlete and you think you’re healthy,” said Dean, a former point guard at Eastern Washington and the Eagles’ leading scorer last year.
Doctors suspected an aneurysm, but the surgery, performed Dec. 14, was a relief: Dean suffers from AVMs, or arteriovenous malformations, a congenital deficiency of the cardiovascular system that is completely treatable.
After initial treatment, Dean resumed exercise, and just 10 days ago was cleared to resume full-strength workouts with his new team, the Utah Utes.
Dean, in a redshirt year at Utah, was back at Reese Court last weekend. Basketball was on his mind, if not in his hands. He took in the Eagles’ homestand and reconnected with old friends and teammates. In most cases, they’re one in the same, and he reveled in the Eagles’ win Saturday over Montana State.
“It was great here,” Dean said. “I spent two years made some great friendships, and I’m really close to some of the guys on the team.”
He was also close to his coach, Kirk Earlywine, who recruited him out of Seattle’s Roosevelt High School and played him at the point. Dean was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year – only the fourth in EWU history – in 2009-10.
Last year he led the Eagles in scoring (13.2 points a game), assists (4.2) and minutes played (33).
But the Eagles lost six of their last nine games and finished 10-20. Earlywine was fired after four seasons in Cheney. Dean initially asked to talk to other schools, but apparently decided to stay in Cheney after the hiring of new coach Jim Hayford.
The new Utah coach, Larry Krystkowiak, called, giving the 5-foot-10 Dean a chance to play in a “higher-level conference.”
It wasn’t just about basketball, said Dean, a Big Sky All-Academic selection last year who carries a 3.6 grade-point average in physical science and dreams of going to medical school: “What better way to go into medical school than to be at a school that’s near one?”
It was an opportunity for Dean, but a shock for the new coaching staff. Hayford expressed surprise at Dean’s about-face.
Transferring was a tough decision. Once made, it showed Dean “who my real friends were.” It turns out they were the teammates he was leaving behind, including current players Tremayne Johnson, Cliff Ederaine, Jeffrey Forbes and Cliff Colimon – his successor at point guard.
“It made our friendships closer,” Dean said. “They were all very supportive to see me step up to a higher level.”
Dean had two more years of college ball, and hopes to offer the Utes the leadership skills learned in Cheney.
“I think I can bring some type of leadership with two years and help bring a winning mindset,” said Dean, who is quickly regaining a handle on the rest of his life.