Morgan State forward Thair Heath was unable to move in the minutes after he hit the ground in a game against Coppin State last week. It was in those moments his teammates knew they wanted to win the game in his honor.
"The guys really wanted to play hard for him because they know that is the way he does it," Bears coach Todd Bozeman said.
"He plays hard on a consistent basis and so they wanted to play hard."
Morgan State secured the 82-77 win that night on Feb. 10, while Heath was taken to an area hospital where all X-rays came back negative and he was released with a concussion.
Heath will be on the sideline tonight when Morgan State hosts the Eagles. But Bozeman said Heath could be cleared to return to the Bears as early as next week.
Heath suffered the injury when he landed hard on his shoulder on a drive to the basket after his shot was rejected and and he was fouled by Coppin State forward Michael Murray.
"I saw his body hit," Eagles coach Fang Mitchell said. "He just landed on his shoulder in an awkward way. So it was frightening to see that."
The game was stopped for almost 30minutes as Coppin State's athletic trainers tended to Heath and awaited paramedics. Heath was eventually taken off the court on a stretcher, and rushed to the hospital.
"The guys were concerned because you feel for your teammate," Bozeman said. "He is such a really, really good kid. He is a guy that does what he is supposed to do. He cares about his teammates."
Said Mitchell: "I was just praying that the kid was all right. I am just happy we had our doctors there attending to him right away to make sure he was OK, and that it wasn't anything more serious. I thought that was very important that they took care of him, and I'm happy a concussion is all it was."
Heath is a 6-foot-9 senior out of Los Angeles. He averages 1.9 points and 6.3 minutes a game this season.
"He is doing well," Bozeman said. "He has that time after a concussion where I just have to wait. He has to pass some tests before he can play. But he is doing fine."
Sophomore forward Cedric Blossom has more than made up for Heath's absence, scoring a season-high 20 points and grabbing 11rebounds in the 88-72 win over UMES on Monday.
Morgan State (11-11, 8-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), winner of four of its past five games, will try to continue its hot play and defeat the Eagles (9-16, 6-6) for the second time in nine days. Justin Black and Ian Chiles both scored 23 points in the first matchup.
Coppin State will look to rebound from its 82-71 loss at Florida A&M; on Saturday, its second defeat in a row.