Crusader lives out college basketball dream after stroke paralyzed half his body

Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 1:41 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - When you watch Sam Reaves play basketball you see a scrappy player with high energy. You would never know that two years ago, he was relearning how to walk and talk.

It was the Summer after his senior year of high school and Sam was just a few months away from starting his college basketball career when he got a nasty headache that just would not go away.

As a healthy teenager, Sam didn’t think much of it and went to play pickup basketball with his longtime friend and teammate Ty Prince.

But after Sam fell during the game and then again on the bench, Ty knew it was time to call 911.

It turns out Sam had an ischemic stroke, paralyzing the right half of his body just months before he was set to start his college basketball career.

Sam tells me, “I just remember this bright light above me... and then my parents on one side and the nurse was on the other. They were talking and I was just, like, ‘I don’t know what is going on’.”

Sam’s mother, Mary, remembers, “He was trying to communicate, and we just could not understand him verbally. They gave him a pen and paper and he was trying to write something, and it was not coherent.”

As soon as Sam’s future coach, Clif Carroll, got word of the stroke, he dropped everything and drove from Alpine, TX to the hospital in College Station - and he couldn’t believe what he found when he got there.

Carroll tells me, “To see where he was that day - it was scary. His parents were scared to death. A lot of uncertainty. We didn’t know if he would ever walk or talk, let alone play basketball again.”

Basketball wasn’t even a thought during the first few days. Sam couldn’t do the simplest of tasks, but it was those little struggles turning into little victories that pulled him through.

Sam explains, “I could barely type with my thumb. Then, on the second day, I gained a lot more dexterity, and then it just built day-by-day. That’s what helped, seeing the actual, physical changes.”

After over a year of grueling physical, occupational, and speech therapy, Sam was finally able to take the court at UMHB.

Coach Carroll says that first week of practice was an emotional one: “Seeing a kid who has worked his entire life to get a chance to play college basketball, and then maybe have it taken away... to see him back out there was special.”

Mary says she is still nervous during games, but nothing was like her son’s first one back: “I remember that first game, a bundle of nerves. A bundle of nerves. It is getting better as time progresses. I am absolutely excited and proud of him.”

Sam says he feels like his old self again, but with some new perspective.

“I would say now I am living a pretty normal life. Now I look at it like, ‘I woke up today, I am blessed’. Then whenever I hear people complain it ticks me off because there is so much to be grateful for and they are focusing on the wrong things.”

This is Sam’s second season back on the court and he recently helped the Cru win another ASC Conference Title.

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