With all the hype and attention the NCAA tournament has received over the past few days, a story took place here in Minnesota during the boys state basketball tournament which deserves a great deal of attention as well. In fact, it put tears in my eyes as well as many other people who happened to view the event.
In January, a young man named Zach Gabbard, who plays for a small high school in western Minnesota, suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest while playing in a game. He immediately had CPR performed on him and was taken to a hospital in Fargo for emergency open heart surgery. Days later, he was transferred to another hospital here in the Twin Cities.
Zach was the leading scorer of his team, the Perham Yellowjackets. His team was the top rated team in the state and surely, this tragic event had to really shake his teammates as well as the community of Perham. Luckily, Zach survived due to the quick responders to the scene but I can only imagine how bad the poor young man must have felt afterwards while laying in the hospital. Not being able to play and be a part of that team probably was a big emotional blow to him. But his prognosis for a full recovery is good and in the grand scheme of things, that is all that matters.
Zach’s team made it to the state tournament. Zach unexpectedly arrived in the Yellowjackets locker room in a wheelchair before the first game to greet his teammates. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the room to witness that. It surely must have have been an emotional and uplifting scene for him and the team. Zach sat behind the team bench during the game which Perham won and advanced to the semis.
During the introductions of the next game, Zach was introduced with the reserve players. He was all decked out in his team’s colors. When his name was introduced, he got out of his wheelchair, walked down the path and high fived several of his teammates. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the arena during that intro.
Perham went on to win the game and won the state championship for their class the next day. Zach was very tired from all the hoopla of the previous day and could not attend the final game. But I am sure his presence during the tournament did just as much as his sweet jump shot would have done. Although he did not play a single moment, he is my MVP for the tournament. Showing up like that and inspiring his teammates was a thing of beauty. I wish Zach a speedy recovery and hope he can get back on the court soon. We are all cheering for you.