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Ex-Boiler coming to grips with situation

– Jay Simpson was not at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, absent from Purdue’s locker room.

If he watched the Boilermakers’ 63-61 loss to Ohio State on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament, he did so like most students: on the West Lafayette campus, via television.

This is Simpson’s new reality since doctors discovered his enlarged heart, a condition that last week put an immediate end to his basketball career.

Now a non-athlete, he is totally immersed with his studies in organizational leadership and supervision.

“I’m trying to stay positive, get my grades up, get my degree as quickly as I can, graduate and get on with my life,” Simpson said when he met with reporters this week.

The redshirt freshman does plan to remain around his teammates when they are on campus.

But Simpson is still coming to grips with the fact that he won’t play another game with them.

“It’s sunk in a little bit,” Simpson said. “It didn’t right away. It took a few days for me to realize that it’s actually over. I’ll be all right. That’s just hard to take when something like that is just taken away from you.”

Simpson said he had never experienced anything like the fall and resulting dizziness he suffered at Nebraska on Feb. 23, the last time he took the court.

“When I fell, I didn’t really know what was happening,” Simpson said. “I was like, ‘What are you doing in my face, (trainer) Chad (Young)?’ He asked if I needed to go to the locker room. I said I was OK.”

Simpson has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and continuing to play could have been fatal, as it was for Boston Celtics great Reggie Lewis.

“I’m pretty blessed because usually the first symptom of this is death,” Simpson said. “With it being just fainting for me, I thank God every day for that.”

Simpson said hearing that he had this genetic disease of the heart muscle left him in initial shock but that he is trying to make the best of it.

“It happened so quickly, out of nowhere,” Simpson said. “Even though it’s hard, I’m trying to stay positive and get more in touch with God and my family.”

cgoff@jg.net

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