MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s 61-50 win at Oklahoma on Feb. 8 percolated fresh as the team boarded a late-night charter flight back to campus.
Inside a Norman, Okla., hotel room, however, the father of Nathan Adrian sensed something wrong in his chest. His wife Lisa phoned for an ambulance.
Word of Kevin Adrian’s cardiac issue only reached his son several hours later, after the Mountaineers’ rerouted flight landed in Pittsburgh. The player was 1,100 miles away and feeling helpless.
“At that point there’s not a whole lot you can do,” Nathan said.
For two days his father remained hospitalized in Oklahoma before receiving clearance to fly home. Once back in Morgantown, symptoms flared again and doctors rushed to identify the blockage before deciding to insert a dual-action defibrillator/pacemaker.
“We were all on edge for a while,” said West Virginia assistant Ron Everhart.
The Adrians have grown close to the staff and become fixtures within the program, rarely missing games — even on the road — during Nathan’s four seasons. With Kevin’s health in peril, the team’s senior leader felt the emotional tug, though he resolved not to show it.
“Nate’s the kind of guy who tries to separate it and not let it bother him, but which one of us couldn’t? It’s human nature,” Everhart said.
Kevin told MetroNews he’s on the mend and planning to join the parade of proud parents at Friday’s senior night ceremony. Considering himself “very fortunate and blessed” to have caught the ailment before more damage occurred, his recent focus shifted to reassuring Nathan the danger has subsided.
“I talked to him the other day, covered all the details about what’s going on, and I think he’s OK now,” Kevin said. “I’ve got a little battery backup. I think he knows I’m good now for another 30 years.”
During the six-game stretch since his dad’s cardiac event in Norman, Adrian has 18 assists and 10 turnovers but his rebounding has tailed off and his shooting has slumped to 15-of-47. While the cause-and-effect can neither be quantified or ignored, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said Thursday, “I think it’s weighing on him a lot.”
Coincidentally, amid Adrian’s most worrisome period, Huggins briefly collapsed during a win over Texas after his own defibrillator fired a warning shock. Nathan helped Huggins return to his sideline seat and squeezed the old coach so tightly you would’ve sworn it was meant for his dad also.
“Maybe it was, maybe it was,” Kevin said. “Nate puts on a tough front but he’s a very loving and caring individual. Between me and Coach Huggs we about wore him out than one week. We gave him a pretty good scare.”
Typically one for answers short enough to avoid a three-second violation, Nathan has remained private about his father’s health issue, only briefly discussing the matter amid questions during the build-up for senior night.
“He’s good,” Nathan said. “He’ll be here.”
Indeed, Kevin Adrian pledges to be there at the Coliseum on Friday, for Iowa State, then off to the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City next week. Ultimately he holds out hope that Nate’s college career ends at the Final Four in Phoenix, the ideal culmination of a hometown recruit whose career includes 91 wins and counting.
“It’s been such a fun ride. It’s hard not to be very proud of Nate,” he said. “And I don’t know if there’s anything that will ever give him greater pride than playing for WVU.
“I know a lot of people say it, but Nathan really loves this state.”
No. 24 Iowa State (20-9, 12-5)
at No. 10 West Virginia (23-7, 11-6)
Tipoff: Friday 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
RPIs: West Virginia 24, Iowa State 27
Line: West Virginia favored by 7.5
Prediction: West Virginia 75-71