God's Plan

Near death to game winner: The incredible journey of Kavin Ezekwe

Kavin Ezekwe celebrates after hitting a game-winning shot for the Lions Vype

Kavin Ezekwe leaping down the court after hitting an eventual game winning three- pointer against Sam Houston in the Region III-6A Semifinal is an image many will never forget.

The senior was mobbed by his teammates on the other end before he turned to the Alief Taylor crowd and beat on his chest.

This is a scene and a moment Ezekwe didn’t know if he would ever get to experience.

Like any other high school senior, Ezekwe was playing out his final campaign with Alief Taylor, and looking forward to the next chapter in his playing career at UT-Dallas.

Then it all came crashing down.

“The doctor told me that I could potentially not play basketball again,” Ezekwe said about a January 7 diagnosis of blood clots. “She told me this is a life- threatening situation. She put it into words where it was so scary. She said don’t try to move to hard because you could potentially make it move and you could die.

“At that point in time I was thinking, am I ever going to play basketball again? I’m committed to UT-Dallas, I was thinking what was going to happen to that? Can I go to college? There was just a lot of factors, it was a scary moment.”

The senior had been battling shortness of breath, feeling hot, coughing and exhaustion during a January 2 game against Pearland and then days later against Fort Bend Elkins.

At first, Ezekwe, his parents and coaches thought it was the flu because the team had battled cases of it early in January. That was until he figured it was something much worse.

His mother took Ezekwe to the emergency room in early January. Doctors ran tests and eventually did an ultrasound.

The tests revealed that a knee-to-knee collision during a game against Fort Bend Travis had formed a bruise in Ezekwe’s right knee. From that collision there was internal bleeding, which formed blood clots in his right calf.

He was done playing basketball and was being scheduled for a surgery to remove the blood clots.

“I told him, ‘look Kavin, don’t come back for this,’” Alief Taylor 17th-year coach Jeff Durnford said. “You’re lucky they found it when they did. It could have been a lot more serious. Myself as a parent you think, my God that could have been really serious. At that point, we said we’re just going to finish it out without him.”

The Lions moved forward thinking they would not have him back. Alief Taylor played without Ezekwe for one month and 13 days going 5-4 in that stretch, and making the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from District 23-6A.

Because Ezekwe was on blood thinners, he couldn’t participate in any contact activities. If he did, he could cause internal bleeding.

Being forced away from the game caused long nights for the senior. Eventually he tried to get back into the gym, against doctors orders and tried to play.

“It just wasn’t good,” Ezekwe said. “My confidence was so low.”

The day before the Lions’ first playoff game, his confidence soared as his father had moved his doctor’s appointment for athletic activity clearance.

In that appointment, Ezekwe’s hopes of playing the sport he loved again were restored.

“When she cleared me, it was a special moment. This was all God’s plan,” Ezekwe said.

The very next day, Ezekwe pulled on his Alief Taylor uniform for a bi- district showdown against District 24-6A champion Dickinson.

“They put in a lot of new plays, so I had to get acclimated to the offense,” Ezekwe said. “I had to do a lot. There were a lot of sets they took out because I was gone, so once I came back I just got back into the flow of things. That first quarter against Dickinson was actually a warm up. I was getting my legs back.”

Trailing 49-47 with the last seconds running off, Ezekwe drove into the lane and hit a game-tying layup with no time left to send the game to overtime.

Alief Taylor went on to win the game 54-52. “I’m amazed that he came back,” Durnford said. “He hadn’t played in a competitive game in over a month and he comes back and plays.”

This was the just the beginning.

Guided by a rejunvenated Ezekwe, Alief Taylor went on to beat District 21-6A champ Atascocita, Pearland and then his game-winning three- pointer sent them past District 18-6A champion Sam Houston to the program’s first-ever Regional Final.

“He’s a tough kid,” Durnford said. “To do that is really remarkable.”

This article appears in the March Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy when magazines hit stands next week!

 

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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