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USC's Bronny James cleared to return to basketball 4 months after cardiac arrest

Bronny James cleared to return to basketball after cardiac arrest
Bronny James cleared to return to basketball after cardiac arrest 00:26

Bronny James has been cleared by doctors for a full return to basketball four months after suffering a cardiac arrest, and the Southern California freshman is expected to make his collegiate debut soon.

A James family spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the 19-year-old will have a final evaluation with USC staff this week and resume practice next week. He will be able to play in games "soon after," it said.

"What soon means, I don't know," coach Andy Enfield said after USC's win over Eastern Washington on Wednesday night. "It's not my decision."

James didn't participate in pregame warmups and he didn't join his teammates on the bench until late in the first half of their 106-78 rout. He joked and smiled with the other reserves and he stood at the rear of the huddles during timeouts.

The Trojans (5-2) play No. 11 Gonzaga in Las Vegas on Saturday. Their next home game is Dec. 10 against Long Beach State, a day the Los Angeles Lakers are off, which could allow LeBron James to watch his namesake son's debut. After that, the Trojans hit the road for four straight games.

USC fell out of the AP Top 25 poll this week after a two-point loss to Oklahoma last week.

"We didn't anticipate half our team being hurt for the first 2 1/2 to 3 weeks of the season," Enfield said, citing injuries to Boogie Ellis and Kobe Johnson. "Bronny's been out and we have no guards left, we have very limited guards."

While James will be a welcome addition to USC's rotation, he'll need time to acclimate to game action. He has been on the court for pregame warmups twice in recent weeks, doing some rebounding and taking shots but also watching his teammates. He's also been at practices.

James need look no further than teammate Vincent Iwuchukwu for inspiration. The 7-foot-1 sophomore suffered a cardiac arrest in July 2022. He began limited practice last December and made his debut in January. He played in 14 games last season, averaging 5.4 points and 2.5 rebounds.

Iwuchukwu was the top player off the bench Wednesday night, with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

A congenital heart defect was likely responsible for the cardiac arrest which Bronny James — the oldest son of NBA superstar LeBron James — suffered during practice at the Galen Center on the LA campus of the University of Southern California in July, his family announced.

The American Heart Association said cardiac arrest happens when the "heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly." It is rare among youth athletes, but it does happen and is the leading cause of death among young athletes. 

James was a McDonald's All-American just like his father. The 6-foot-3 guard played at Sierra Canyon School in the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles and chose to stay close to home in picking USC.

In October, LeBron James gave a promising update, saying that Bronny was progressing in his rehabilitation.

"Bronny is doing extremely well," James said. "He has begun his rehab process to get back on the floor this season with his teammates at USC. (With) the successful surgery that he had, he's on the up-and-up. It's definitely a whirlwind, a lot of emotions for our family this summer. But the best thing we have is each other."

At the time, Bronny was attending classes at USC and spending time with teammates, getting back to full strength.

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