Whole Hearted Basketball

Whole Hearted Basketball

Graphic by Alex Farmer

As Tori Lentz of Powell, Tenn. selected Lee to be her college home, she had no idea that a pre-existing heart condition could put her plan to play college basketball in jeopardy after just one year on the court.

Now a sophomore women’s basketball player, Lentz looks back on the whole experience as one that has shaped the way she views her opportunities. When asked about her growth through the experience, she was quick to share positive insight.

“Not taking my blessings and opportunities for granted, and doing everything to the best of my ability,” she said.

As a result of visiting Lee during a high school basketball tournament, Lentz decided that Lee was the place she wanted to be. After expressing this interest to her high school basketball coach, Lentz was recruited and offered a scholarship to play on Lee’s women’s basketball team.

Beginning basketball at a young age, Lentz said that she feels she has been playing the sport her entire life.

While playing basketball her Freshman year, Lentz began to notice that occasionally her heart would race. At first she thought this was just normal fatigue from playing, but she quickly realized the symptom was a sign of something more serious when it began happening at abnormal times.

“One day I was laying in my bed and it started racing like that, and I wasn’t doing anything,” she said.

Following initial tests, Lentz was found to have abnormal EKG results. When she met with a cardiologist she learned that she had Supraventricular Tachycardia. In layman’s terms this means a racing heart.

After learning about her medical issue, Lentz was worried about the health implications and the possibility of an end to her ability to play basketball.

Women’s basketball coach Marty Rowe was also very concerned when he learned about her heart condition.

“We were worried about her health first and foremost,” said Rowe.

Treated with medication initially, she quickly realized that the side effects were not positive. To find a permanent solution, the next option was a procedure called a cardiac ablation.

With knowledge that procedural complications could lead to the necessity of a pacemaker, Lentz moved forward with the surgery. The successful operation was performed on Sept. 19, 2016, and Lentz was away from basketball for only a short time.

“I was able to start getting back into it a week and a half after surgery,” she said.

Coach Rowe along with other basketball leadership have been amazed by Lentz’s determination. She has continued to succeed through the challenges she has faced, and puts in additional conditioning to ensure that her body can handle the demands of the sport.

“It hasn’t affected her on the court. If it’s done anything, I think it’s given her an appreciation, and it’s given a lot of us an appreciation of how much she cares, and how much basketball means to her,” said Rowe.

Acknowledging her parents in her ability to persevere through hardships, Lentz explained that not only have they been encouraging throughout her medical concerns, but have raised her to trust in the Lord and His plan.

She also recognized how supportive her team has been by uplifting her and praying for her. Lentz’s teammate, roommate and close friend, Anna Woodford has been encouraged as she has watched her friend endure this hardship.

“Tori has beautiful faith, seeing her put her strength in God through this trial has impacted me spiritually without a doubt,” she said.

Both Woodford and Rowe used the word “Tough” to describe Lentz. Even during hard times, Woodford added that Lentz always focuses on others.

“Tori is an incredibly loyal and selfless friend, even throughout the struggle with her heart condition she never makes it about her. She is so others centered,” she said.

Behind the accomplished athlete, is a girl who loves the movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” enjoys spending time at the beach and hiking with friends.

“She’s a social butterfly. She has a great demeanor about her,” Rowe said.

Lentz is a Spanish major and is still exploring possible career paths including teaching Spanish, translating or teaching English in a Spanish speaking country.

In addition to playing basketball, Tori is a Young Life leader and a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

Lentz admitted that being a student athlete is challenging, but in many ways it is even better than she thought it would be. She is thankful for a great team dynamic and teammates that make traveling fun.

Tori would encourage other athletes who have experienced similar setbacks to not resent their sport and never take opportunities for granted, but to trust the Lord.

“He ultimately provides the satisfaction that we’re all searching for,” she said.

Lentz has gained a new appreciation for things that used to seem mundane. The gratitude she feels towards her ability to play the sport she loves has changed her mindset.

“Not saying I have to go to practice, but I get to practice,” she said.

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