LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz began the new year with a surprise.
Senior guard Antonita Slaughter, who collapsed during a game on Dec. 3 and was later diagnosed with a blood clot, has been cleared by doctors to return to play and was back in practice with the Cardinals on Thursday.
Walz said Slaughter was referred by doctors at Jewish Hospital to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where she underwent extensive tests that all returned within the normal range for heart activity. The tests also showed no trace of the blood clot, and no further treatment is needed. Walz said she has been taken off all medications.
"We've had some great news on Antonita," Walz said. "As of (Thursday), Antonita has actually been cleared to play. . . . We're thrilled to have Antonita back. But more importantly, we're thrilled that she's okay. What took place on Dec. 3 was probably the scariest moment that I've been involved with in college coaching. To see her now back, smiling, and in good health, is what we're most concerned about and most excited about."
Walz said Slaughter could play a few minutes in Saturday's 2 p.m. home game against Cincinnati, "depending on situations, just to get her a chance to get back out there, depending on how she's feeling" and that her return will be gradual.
"I'm excited about returning to the court," Slaughter said in a statement released by U of L. "After being away the last month, I realized how much I love the game of basketball. I am grateful for the opportunity to return and be able to contribute to my team. . . . I'm looking forward to picking up where we left off last year."
Walz said both Slaughter and her teammates were excited at practice on Thursday.
"She was absolutely thrilled, relieved, just, you know, it's a situation for a month you're just doing extensive tests, EKGs, looked at her heart, and everything came back and looked great," Walz said. "It's not something that was taken lightly, by no means. We've gone to the best of the best. They've consulted with others after looking at all the tests and results, and believe that she's good to go."
Walz said he'd just judge her ability to play moving forward based on what he sees in practice. He said that he'll proceed cautiously, and he has that luxury.
Slaughter is the team's fifth-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game, and she is the Cardinals' most consistent three-point shooter. She started 30 of 38 games during U of L's national runner-up season last year, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from three-point range, and making the All-Final Four team.
"It's going to take a while. It's not something where she'll just jump back and play 25 or 30 minutes a game," Walz said. "She's gone an entire month with no activity. You can't take a month off and then expect to jump back into college athletics at this level. We're fortunate, we play Saturday, then we have a week off. So she'll get some time to get some conditioning in. But what's really exciting for our program is the fact that we have a deep group. It's not something that she's going to have to be pressed to get right back out there. We're going to be able to take our time and get her in as we see fit."