Will Vince Iwuchukwu Ever Play Again After Cardiac Arrest?

John McGillen / USC Athletics

Vince Iwuchukwu, one of the top freshmen in the country, who committed to the University of Southern California in September 2021, is out indefinitely after suffering “a sudden cardiac arrest” during an informal team practice on July 1st.

This incident was not publicly known until now. Though the 5-star center told CBS Sports he is “feeling great,” university medical experts and decision-makers have been monitoring his health over the past three months and will continue to do so before deciding if he will ever be able to play for the Trojans.

“Prized USC freshman/former five-star prospect Vince Iwuchukwu tells @CBSSports he suffered cardiac arrest during an early July team workout and was hospitalized. It’s undetermined when (or if) he’ll be cleared by doctors to play for the Trojans.”

Matt Norlander via Twitter

Vince Iwuchukwu is listed at 7’1”, 235 pounds, and was ranked as the #16 overall recruit in his recruiting class by Rivals.com. He averaged 15.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in 2020-21 according to Sports Illustrated. He also dominated the Nike EYBL Circuit in July 2021, posting monster numbers of 19.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks a night in 12 games, as well as leading all players in field goal percentage (.750) at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June.

As USC’s fourth five-star bigman in the last four years, Andy Enfield’s squad were hoping the Texas native would be an instant contributor, but they will have to wait an undisclosed amount of time to watch him take the floor.

USC’s basketball program has been surging under Andy Enfield, and Iwuchukwu was expected to help take this team to the next level. In 2020, the team made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing 85-66 to runner-up Gonzaga. In 2021, they built on that success, peaking at #5 in the AP poll after a 13-0 start to the season, but lost to Miami in a heartbreaking 68-66 upset loss in the first round of the tournament. Iwuchukwu highlights a 2022 USC recruiting class that is #9 in the country according to 247 Sports.

Vince Iwuchukwu hoped to follow in the footsteps of Evan Mobley, Onyeka Okongwu, and Kevin Porter Jr and give the Trojans a player selected in the NBA Draft for the 6th straight year, and he was well on his way to do so. The 7-footer was projected as the 51st pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by NBADraftRoom.com. 

Now, he is falling off draft boards and out of the USC lineup with this serious heart issue, and many Trojan fans have questioned whether he will ever play again. Iwuchukwu’s future is largely up in the air, as there is no timetable for his return.

According to Heart.org, it can take several months to recover from cardiac arrest, so it is extremely unlikely that Iwuchukwu will return to the team by their November 7th opener at home against Florida Gulf Coast. Whether or not he will suit up for USC in the 2023 season, or at all, is another question that is yet to have a clear answer.

Cuttino Mobley and LaMarcus Aldridge were both NBA stars that were unfortunately forced to retire due to heart issues at 33 and 36 respectively. On the college scene, in December 2020, Florida forward Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court due to a heart issue, and was never able to return to competition for the Gators. However, almost two years later, Johnson has now graduated from Florida and will play for Kansas State this upcoming season as a grad transfer.

Vince Iwuchukwu is an exceptional talent, one that deserves to play on the world stage. His journey to recovery will be a long one, and right now there are more questions than answers, but Iwuchukwu says his rehabilitation “remains positive” in the face of uncertainty. With his basketball future in jeopardy, his Trojan teammates, coaches, and fans, as well as the basketball world at large, will be rooting for his eventual return to the floor.

Stay tuned for more details…

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