Turiaf expected to recovery from surgery in Spokane

Updated: July 28, 2005, 9:44 PM ET
Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Former Gonzaga basketball star Ronny Turiaf plans to return to Spokane to recover from heart surgery and resume his quest to play in the National Basketball Association.

In a statement released Thursday from Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Northern California, Turiaf said: "My surgery went well."

Turiaf underwent surgery at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, and Dr. Craig Miller said afterward that he was able to repair Turiaf's enlarged aortic root without having to replace the heart valve.

That means Turiaf could still play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who drafted him in the second round and are paying for his medical care.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, one of several team officials at the hospital, called the surgery outcome "terrific," adding, "It's as good as we could have hoped for."

Turiaf plans to eventually return to Spokane to recover from his surgery, GU officials said.

"It'll be good for him to get back among friends,'' Few said Tuesday. He pulled himself and assistant coaches Bill Grier and Leon Rice off the recruiting trail to have dinner with Turiaf on Monday, the eve of the surgery.

The Lakers team physician discovered the seriousness of Turiaf's heart condition, prompting them to void the two-year, $1 million contract he had signed earlier this month.

Instead of replacing the heart valve, Miller was able to mend Turiaf's enlarged aortic root by inserting a synthetic conduit into the base of the aorta. The conduit will reinforce the weakened walls of Turiaf's main artery.

He's expected to be hospitalized about a week.

Turiaf, selected 37th in the draft, was diagnosed with an enlarged aortic root during a team physical after the draft. Had the condition not been caught and treated it could have been fatal, team spokesman John Black said.

The 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots as a senior at Gonzaga last season.

Miller told the Lakers representative and the Gonzaga contingent that he felt Turiaf should be able to eventually resume his basketball career. But the Lakers will ultimately have to decide if Turiaf will be cleared to play.

"And that could be months, maybe even a year or more, before that's all sorted out," Few said.

Grier and Rice left California on Tuesday morning to return to Spokane, where the Bulldogs are holding their annual team basketball camp.

Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd and Turiaf's former teammate and roommate Brian Michaelson were to stay with Turiaf on Wednesday.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press