Braswell coping with son's illness

January, 22, 2010

Bobby Braswell was by his son's hospital bedside Thursday night, hoping, praying that Jeffrey's lung capacity would return to a productive level.

A year ago, he had to deal with Jeffrey's stunning arrest on a burglary charge. That was shocking for him and his wife, Penny, but this has shaken them to their core.

Jeffrey, now 23, who once played for Braswell at Cal State Northridge, was dealing with a life-threatening condition.

An arrest can shake a parent's confidence. Seeing your eldest child, or any of your children, lying in an ICU unit on a ventilator, is one of those moments that you cannot imagine.

"He has asthma," a reserved, despondent Braswell said from Jeffrey's Encino hospital room. "One of his lungs collapsed. The other one was in trouble, too. He had to have surgery last Wednesday. We're just going day-to-day right now."

Braswell said doctors had to remove a piece of one of Jeffrey's lungs. He said his son is at about 90 percent capacity.

"We're just hoping and praying," Braswell said. Jeffrey was moved out of critical care Wednesday but remains hospitalized. Braswell said the ventilator has been removed and doctors are seeing how Jeffrey is breathing on his own.

Braswell went to practice earlier Thursday for a break from the bedside rotation that he and his wife have been on. The two are also rotating back at the house with their other children, a son and daughter, who are both school-age.

"For the most part, we've been here," Braswell said. "We've been very blessed that people from our church have been helping us out as well."

His Cal State Northridge squad was prepping for Saturday's game at Cal Poly. Braswell is anticipating that he'll be able to make the game.

Braswell missed the Matadors' win at UC Riverside on Jan. 14. He left the hospital long enough to coach the Matadors in a win at nearby Cal State Fullerton two days later. But he didn't go with the team on the road to Seattle -- a game the Matadors lost -- for fear that something could happen while he was out of the state.

Northridge, which was expected to be a factor in the Big West after winning the league last season and pushing Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Kansas City, sits at 7-11 overall and 2-3 in the league.

"The team has handled this in a very mature way," Braswell said. "They've been texting me a lot to check on Jeff. They were happy to see me for the Fullerton game. Going to that game was a nice emotional lift for me, just being around the guys. All of them are concerned, know Jeff and are friends with him."

Braswell has had to deal with quite a lot over the past year. Jeffrey's sentence for burglary was three years of formal probation, and he was ordered to complete 300 hours of work with the California Department of Transportation. According to reports from July, San Fernando Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper reduced the felony convictions to misdemeanors after hearing a no-contest plea from Braswell and the other two defendants, Deon Tresvant and Phannuel Gbewonyo, in relation to the incident of Jan. 1, 2009, at a Best Buy in Porter Ranch, Calif.

None of that can compare to what Braswell is going through now.

"He's showing signs of doing well," Braswell said again. "We're just hoping everything is going to be OK."

• Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he ran Dan Fitzgerald's "crackdown" play for a layup on Gonzaga's second possession in the win over Pepperdine on Thursday night. He said that fellow former Gonzaga assistants Dan Monson of Long Beach State and Bill Grier of San Diego did the same.

"He's probably looking down smiling," Few said of Fitz, the longtime Zags coach who died Tuesday night. Fitz was the father of the modern-day Gonzaga era, recruiting John Stockton and stocking the staff with the aforementioned assistants, all of whom are all successful head coaches.

Few said funeral arrangements for Fitz are still pending.

• Today we're starting a weekly series that will run every Friday and will feature a different coach talking about who has been the biggest influence in their career. First up is Clemson's Oliver Purnell, who expounds on the lessons learned from former coaches Paul Webb (Old Dominion) and John Thompson (Georgetown). Check it out here. Later in the season we will feature Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Here is a preview of that interview.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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