While playing a pickup basketball game at a LA Fitness in his home state of New Jersey, Wolf Pack guard Halice Cooke got lightheaded and passed out while running down court after scoring a basket.
He awoke a few seconds later and continued to play as if he had no issues. But this week, after several doctor’s visits, Cooke found out he had a growth on his heart which has caused him to medically retire from playing basketball at the age of 21.
One would think Cooke, who transferred to Nevada from Iowa State after starting his career at Oregon State, would be devastated by the news but he is happy to be alive.
“I haven’t had a second to be down about it”, Cooke said on Friday. “It’s been amazing to me. Its honestly been amazing. It’s more like a celebration that I’m still alive.”
Cooke went on to say that “I’m 21 and have been chasing my dream of making it to the NBA for a long time. Now, it’s time to chase a different dream. I know that I’ve made my parents proud and I can’t stress how lucky I feel I’m still alive.”
When Cooke began his career at Oregon State, he was cleared medically to play but was told that he had a small growth on his heart. When he went through his Nevada physical after committing to play for the Wolf Pack, that growth had increased by a couple of millimeters. That growth in his heart was diagnosed as a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and that growth was enough for doctors to say that it was unsafe for Cooke to play basketball anymore.
Cooke will stay in Reno and join the Wolf Pack’s staff as a student assistant under coach Eric Musselman. He will remain on scholarship and is schedule to get his undergraduate degree next summer.
Cooke is the third Wolf Pack player to have to retire from basketball due to medical reasons in the last four years. Center Chris Brown was forced to retire due to blood clots. Shawn Smith, a transfer from Marshall, was supposed to join the team last season, also had a heart issue and was not clear to play for Nevada.
I personally want to say that I wish nothing but the best for Halice Cooke. I hope he succeeds in whatever he does in his life and most importantly, I hope he is happy and healthy while he pursues his new dream.