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Raptors' Jawai taking no chances with heart condition

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TSN.ca Staff
9/30/2008 6:08:48 PM
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OTTAWA - Nathan Jawai would like be on the court with his teammates at Toronto Raptors training camp rather than watching from the bleachers.

But there's no taking chances when it comes to heart problems.

Jawai, the Australian who was drafted by the Raptors in July, is being held out of training camp after an irregularity was found in the team's routine pre-season cardiac screening.

"Of course, you're talking about your heart, it's one of the main parts of your body so that's tough," Jawai said Tuesday, after the team's first practice at Carleton University. "I think I took it OK, but I was a bit worried because I haven't had any problems with it before. (The doctor) told me, it's serious but it's not serious right now, I just want to find out some more information."

The team won't elaborate on the specifics of Jawai's test results, but Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo said the Raptors were taking every precaution with the six-foot-10, 280-pound rookie.

"We're going to get him in front of another specialist here this week and hopefully we'll have some better news by the end of the week," Colangelo said. "For now, you take the precautionary route and I think the prudence is to hold him out of practice until we're 100 per cent certain what we're dealing with."

Cardiac testing has become routine among professional sports leagues after numerous heart-related deaths, including Atlanta Hawks centre Jason Collier, who collapsed and died of a heart ailment during training camp in 2005 at the age of 28.

That same year, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Fred Hoiberg, New Jersey Nets forward Robert (Tractor) Traylor and Los Angeles Lakers draft pick Ronny Turiaf all had off-season heart surgery, and the Chicago Bulls traded Eddy Curry to the New York Knicks amid concerns about his heart. The six-foot-11 centre complained of chest pains that were diagnosed as heart arrhythmia.

Earlier this month, FIFA - the world's governing body for soccer - announced it was extending the compulsory heart testing program first used at the 2006 World Cup in Germany to players of both sexes at all world tournaments, including junior championships, after four more players died from undiagnosed heart problems last season.

The bid to better protect players came after players from clubs in England, Israel, Scotland and Spain died from undiagnosed heart problems last season.

Jawai said he's never had any hint of trouble with his heart.

"I'm fine, I'm normal," he said. "I haven't had any symptoms or anything. I'm breathing OK and everything's fine. I've played for four or five years now and I haven't dealt with it before, I've had no problems with it and it just basically showed up then. It's frustrating but I'm kind of handling it OK."

Jawai, who played last season for Cairns Taipans in Australia's National Basketball League, said when he got the news of his test result, he immediately got in touch with his family back home.

"I called back to find out that information and none of my family has had heart problems so that's one of the positive things I found out," he said. "It's been frustrating, I was very shocked about it. I'm just waiting to get cleared and I'm very positive it will be okay."

The Raptors signed journeyman centre Jamal Sampson to a non-guaranteed contract on Tuesday as insurance for Jawai. If the Australian is cleared to play, Sampson will be released.

Nathan Jawai (Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
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