Photo by Brian Paglia / Eagle’s Landing rising senior Eric Wortham committed to Middle Tennessee State on Monday.
Eric Wortham was one frightening moment away from perhaps never playing basketball again.
Now, he’s almost a Division I player.
Wortham committed to Middle Tennessee State on Monday, choosing the Blue Raiders over his other finalist, Kennesaw State.
Wortham said he decided over the weekend before making his decision. He plans to sign during the November early-signing period.
“I just looked at the roster and talked to [Middle Tennessee] coach [Kermit] Davis and had a good talk with him,” Wortham said. “He gave me his plan for me and his vision, so I thought about it, I looked at the roster and they’re graduating six seniors. I thought it was the best opportunity for me.”
Monday’s commitment was another compelling moment in Wortham’s long, tenuous journey back from a scary seizure episode on March 2 in the midst of Eagle’s Landing’s state tournament run to the semifinals last season.
Several schools had been recruiting the 6-foot-5 guard/forward, who was named Region 4-AAA Player of the Year and the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald Henry County Player of the Year after averaging 14.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
After Wortham’s seizure, most of the schools’ interest disappeared.
But not Middle Tennessee.
“They were committed to him very early,” Eagle’s Landing coach Clay Crump said. “They came to a ton of his games last year, and they didn’t back off him despite his health issues.”
Wortham said he was looking to make a college decision before this upcoming season. With Eagle’s Landing returning the bulk of its talent off a semifinals team and adding transfers Chris Davenport (Monteverde Academy) and Trevin Joseph (Stockbridge), the Golden Eagles figure to be among the handful of favorites to win the Class AAAA title.
Wortham said he didn’t want anything getting in the way of his last chance at a state championship.
“I wanted to get it out of the way,” he said. “I didn’t want anything distracting us. I’m encouraging everybody else to commit before the season, but if they’re not ready then of course wait.
“But I’m encouraging that so we won’t have any distractions. I just want a state championship this year.”
Wortham’s seizure last season came the day before the Golden Eagle’s quarterfinals game in the Class AAA tournament. A friend playfully jabbed Wortham’s chest during lunch. Wortham fell moments after and went into convulsions.
Wortham went into cardiac arrest, was stabilized at Henry Medical Center, then flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. After days of tests that came back normal, he was released from the hospital just in time to watch Eagle’s Landing take on No. 1 Columbia in the semifinals.
It took a cross-country trip to a specialist in Los Angeles to determine the cause was commotio cordis, a disruption of heart rhythm from a blow to the chest area directly over the heart at a distinct point during the cycle of a heart beat.
Wortham had surgery to put an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in his chest and is back at full strength.
“It’s a blessing just to be here,” Wortham said. “Furthermore, I get a free education, so no pressure on my parents. I get to play at the highest competition there is, Division I. We play a good non-conference schedule.
“I’m just excited, but I still have to work hard to be where I want to be.”