WILSON — As his teammates, his brothers, go through the motions of another practice, Wilson senior Brian Bond looks on from the sidelines.

Teammates run around shirtless in the Wilson gym, chucking up jump shots, free throws and even a few dunks while Bond observes. Less than a week ago, Bond helped the Eagles rout Empire in the first round of the Class 2A district tournament, but the Eagles' sixth man is subjected to an abrupt sit-down now.

Bond's high school career wasn't ended by a buzzer-beater or some go-ahead free throws. Instead, the same heart that gave him the strength to go all-out for loose balls eventually took his final few basketball games away from him.

A sudden end

At halftime last Friday against Empire, with Wilson ahead by 30 points, Bond never came out of the locker room for the second half.
Why? He said his heart felt like it was going to explode.

"It was beating a lot faster than normal," Bond said. "They had no idea what was going on at the ER.

"They did some blood work, took some tests, and that's when we set a doctor's appointment for Monday."

Without having clearance from doctors, Bond was forced to sit out Saturday's game, in which Wilson crushed Central Marlow 82-51 for the district championship. After missing Saturday's game, Bond thought he was in the clear. Monday's visit to the doctor proved otherwise.

After receiving an Echocardiogram and a stress test, Bond was diagnosed with a thicker-than-normal left ventricle, which was restricting blood flow through his heart to the rest of his body. Without further testing, which could only be administered at hospitals in either Oklahoma City or Dallas over a series of weeks, Bond couldn't get the clearance to finish Wilson's playoff run.

That means the Eagles enter regional play today against Kiowa without their first man off the bench.

"For about two weeks, he's been running out of energy," McGuire said. "You could really notice Friday.

"It just caught us all off guard. The playoffs were the furthest thing from our mind."

Bond didn't formally talk to teammates until Tuesday, too shaken by the news to respond. He did write an impassioned letter to his team via Facebook, one in which Bond stressed the family aspect of the Wilson basketball and its link to the community.

Bond let his Facebook post speak, saying that he found it difficult to talk at length with the team about the end of his career.
"I was really shocked," Bond said. "... That it was all over like 'that.'"

Heart of the Eagles

Bond has played just two years of varsity ball, but McGuire said the senior stands alongside classmates CJ Ramsey and Blayke Hunziker as a team leader.

Despite playing just two quarters in district play, Bond stayed involved in Wilson's dominating run throughout the final two games.

When a player came off the court, Bond was in his ear. He was instructing players, staying active, even losing his voice during the Eagles' melee of Central Marlow.

"Brian is very much a part of this family," McGuire said. "Just because he's not putting on the uniform to play the game, doesn't make him less a member of the team, of the family.

"Yeah, he didn't get to play on Saturday, but he was just as much a part of that victory."

Bond says watching Wilson succeed without him doesn't make things easier, but he's glad the Eagles get to continue to play even if he doesn't.

The opportunity to keep playing hasn't been lost on Bond's teammates. Hunziker, a two-time All-Ardmoreite selection, said that the privilege to take the court as a senior was magnified by the sudden close to Bond's career.

"You've got to go out and play every game like it's your last, no matter what," Hunziker said. "It's over for Brian, so it could be over for either me or CJ, next game or today."

Sophomore guard Josh Houchin, one of Bond's closest friends on the team, said losing his teammate for the season left him heartbroken, but that the Eagles can still go far without Bond.

Houchin said Bond's attitude on the bench makes it seem as if he's still dribbling right alongside them.

"We still have him on the team, just not on the court," Houchin said.

Still shooting

The Wilson boys drift to the opposite end of the court to shoot, all moving as one except Bond. As Hunziker comes and sits down on the bench, Bond stands up, removes his jacket and picks up a ball.

He's parked outside the free-throw line, a neon lanyard swinging out of his jeans pocket. He hoists 3-pointer after 3-pointer by himself, painting a figure that would give anything for one more game.

"It's very disappointing I won't be able to play anymore, but I know all of these guys are still here for me," Bond said.

"I'm gonna be here for them no matter what. I've still got that."

Erik K. Horne