(NewsNation) — Making it to March Madness is a dream for any college basketball player. For Villanova Wildcats senior guard Caleb Daniels, it means even more. Daniels recently battled a medical condition that threatened to end his basketball career.
Villanova kicks off the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four Saturday evening against the University of Kansas Jayhawks. Duke University, led by retiring coach Mike Krzyzewsky faces Atlantic Coast Conference archrival the University of North Carolina and coach Hubie Brooks in the nightcap.
It’s a special moment for Daniels, who will play in his hometown of New Orleans, site of this year’s Final Four.
But last year, this journey seemed impossible after Daniels tested positive for coronavirus.
“Just having COVID was tough in the beginning, because it took a very huge toll on my body,” Daniels said.
After recovering from COVID-19, Daniels then found out he had myocarditis. According to the Mayo Clinic, myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, which can reduce the heart’s ability to pump and cause “rapid or irregular heart rhythms,” also known as arrhythmias. As many as 20 percent of people with severe COVID-19 show signs of heart damage, according to scientists who spoke with The Associated Press.
Because of these health issues, Daniels took time away from the game. With the right medical attention and a lot of love from his family and friends in southern Louisiana, Daniels fully recovered.
“It means the world,” Connie Daniels, Caleb’s mom, said of her son’s recovery. “It became clear that so many people counted him out, (felt) that he was finished. And maybe at some point, he may have felt that way. But we continued to encourage him, motivate him, inspire him to keep on moving. We prayed, we talked as a family on a regular basis.”
For Caleb Daniels, he’s just happy to be back on the court with his teammates.
“We’re at the pinnacle of it all,” Daniels said. “So it’s just a true blessing and honor to just be healthy again, and just be able to be back out there with my brothers.”