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A heart condition nearly ended Tyon Grant-Foster’s hoops career — and his life — before he led Grand Canyon to its first NCAA tournament win

March 24th, 2024

On March 30, 2023, Tyon Grant-Foster was home on his computer waiting for a Zoom meeting to start with his doctor from the Mayo Clinic. He had spent 16 months away from the basketball court after he collapsed twice and underwent two heart surgeries. Grant-Foster was waiting to hear definitively if he could make a return to basketball. The doctor started the meeting by saying, “I’ve got some good news,” and went on to clear Grant-Foster to return to the sport he loved.

“It was an ecstatic moment, the best moment of my life,” Grand Canyon senior guard Grant-Foster told Paul Coro from GCULopes.com last year.

Tyon Grant-Foster started his collegiate career at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa back in 2019. After a strong season, he was a NJCAA All-America Honorable Mention player and decided to transfer to Kansas, closer to his hometown in Kansas City. He played limited minutes for the Jayhawks, averaging 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.2 minutes and opted to hit the transfer portal again. He found a new home at DePaul for his junior season and felt good in his first game against Coppin State on Nov. 10, 2021. He scored nine points, including a last-second 3, and grabbed three rebounds in the first half. While returning to the locker room, he collapsed and his whole life changed.

DePaul senior athletic trainer Michael Sommer resuscitated him three times and Grant-Foster was rushed to Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. He spent 10 days in the hospital with his family beside him and, with an uncertain diagnosis, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was inserted to monitor his irregular heart beat.

Grand Canyon guard Tyon Grant-Foster celebrates during an NCAA tournament first-round win over Saint Mary's on Friday in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Grand Canyon guard Tyon Grant-Foster celebrates during an NCAA tournament first-round win over Saint Mary’s on Friday in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

While recovering at home in Kansas City several months later, Grant-Foster felt great and that his collapse was an isolated incident. He decided to go to a local rec center for a pick-up game with former Kansas teammate and current Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun. He collapsed again and this time, he knew it was serious. A second heart surgery took place at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and his future as a basketball player was subsequently slipping away. For the next year and a half, he found ways to stay around the game, reffing and looking at a future as a grad assistant somewhere and waiting to hear if he would be able to play again with his heart condition.

“I feel like I became a better basketball player IQ-wise watching the game a whole lot,” Grant-Foster told reporters after practice on March 14. “Being around it and not playing, you learn so much more and see stuff you usually don’t see on the court.”

After his doctor cleared him without any underlying issues, Grant-Foster worked to get back on a team for senior season. High-major teams were reluctant to touch him because of his heart condition and multiple surgeries. One team would end up taking a chance on him — Grand Canyon University. He took one official visit and committed soon afterwards. The Antelopes’ head coach Bryce Drew had a heart condition growing up and never let it slow him down. Drew played at Valparaiso before playing six NBA seasons.

Grant-Foster started his senior season strong, scoring 30 points in 24 minutes and leading GCU to a win over Southeast Missouri State. It had been almost two years to the day since he collapsed and started his long journey back to basketball. The 6-foot-7 guard would go on to score in double digits in all but two games this season and was named the WAC Player of the Year. He led GCU to a regular season title and posted 28 points in the WAC championship game, getting the win over Seattle and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“This team has really been motivated all year,” Drew said after the game. “We’ve had a lot of goals. This team still has more goals that they want to accomplish.”

Tyon Grant-Foster helped lead Grand Canyon to its first NCAA tournament win in program history. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Tyon Grant-Foster helped lead Grand Canyon to its first NCAA tournament win in program history. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Tyon Grant-Foster helped lead Grand Canyon to its first NCAA tournament win in program history. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

GCU was the 12-seed in the West region and were facing tough No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s in the first round. Grand Canyon had made the tournament in 2021 and 2023 but had yet to advance past the first round. That all changed Friday night in Spokane, Washington, as the Antelopes knocked off the Gaels, 75-66.

Grant-Foster led all players with 22 points and added seven rebounds in the win. He was key down the stretch, hitting tough shots and working to get stops on defense. A player who two short years ago thought he’d never play basketball again and almost died twice was now leading his team to school history and advancing to the Round of 32 for the first time ever.

“We just work so hard,” Grant-Foster said after the game. “This group of guys, the coaching staff, everyone. We know we have much more to give and I’m just so proud to be part of this group.”

The NCAA tournament is the biggest stage in college basketball and big moments produce big stars. Grant-Foster has become one of the best stories this season and the magic of March could keep things alive for the Antelopes as they face No. 4 Alabama on Sunday.

“Just because I couldn’t play [after his heart condition] doesn’t mean the dream ever went away,” Grant-Foster said. “We’re not done yet.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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