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Sports >  Whitworth

‘None of it was fun’: JT McDermott rebounds from scary bout with COVID-19, guides Whitworth men into Tuesday’s showdown against Linfield

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 17, 2022

By Jason Shoot The Spokesman-Review

JT McDermott was scared for his life.

Diagnosed with COVID-19 during the Whitworth men’s basketball season last year, McDermott’s symptoms quickly worsened and compounded.

“I can tell you none of it was fun,” said McDermott, now a 22-year-old senior. “I pretty much had every symptom you can think of. The main scary ones were all respiratory ones. It affected my breathing, and I had real bad shortness of breath.

“I had really weird chest pain and a constant chest pressure. I had brain fog, and I was really fatigued, super tired and had a really bad digestive system for that first month. I just had everything, really.”

McDermott returned to Whitworth this past September still reeling from the aftereffects and unsure if he would suit up in a single game this season.

Four months later, McDermott is the Pirates’ leading scorer as they host first-place Linfield in a Northwest Conference game at the Fieldhouse on Tuesday night at 8.

Whitworth (11-2, 4-1 NWC) can pull even with the Wildcats (9-3, 4-0) in the conference standings with a victory.

McDermott acknowledged the season means more to him because of what it took for him to return to the court.

“Oh yeah, 100%,” he said. “I definitely look at life differently since I was sick for so long.”

McDermott found it difficult to care for himself when he was sick and returned to his family’s care in Pleasanton, California.

He was afflicted with symptoms for the next six months, he said.

“I was down bad and pretty desperate,” he said. “Honestly I was scared all the time. I lost a ton of weight the first three months. I lost 30 pounds.”

Vaccination was limited to seniors and immunocompromised individuals when McDermott first was diagnosed, but he said he is vaccinated and boosted now.

He admitted, though, he fears getting sick again and the prospect of enduring another round of symptoms.

“I’m hoping (the shots) will show to be helpful in the future if I catch it,” he said. “I changed my whole diet to try to cut out as much inflammation as possible. I take vitamins every day and hope it helps boost my immune system.”

Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski said he met with McDermott in his office in September to chart a path forward. Jablonski said he was confident McDermott would work himself into shape, but the player wasn’t so sure.

“He was still at the point where he couldn’t even do 20 push-ups without being exhausted,” Jablonski said. “I said, ‘What do you think your goal is for the season?’ He said, ‘I hope to be able to play in a game this year.’

“That’s where we started the first week of September. He’d been home with his family, and it had been a rough struggle getting himself back physically and mentally. We sat down and said, ‘What can you do this week? Let’s do that plus 10%.’ And we’d just go week by week trying to get him back into condition. Before the season started back in October is when he played in his first open gym. … Once he got into a routine and got his body moving in the right direction, his own confidence caught up to it, and he saw a lot of progress.”

Jablonski said he believes McDermott, a mobile 6-foot-6 post, has been deserving of all-conference consideration.

“He’s a really solid defensive player and has really been a go-to scorer for us,” Jablonski said. “He’s just crafty around the bucket and a difficult guard in 1-on-1 situations.”

McDermott is averaging 12.8 points per game on 60% shooting from the floor, including 11 for 21 (52.4%) on 3-point shots.

“Honestly, this is like a miracle for me and my family,” McDermott said. “No one really knows what I’ve been through besides my family really. It’s been an unbelievable turnaround these last few months.”

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