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Forum staff reports, Published January 25 2011

Phillips, Bison players concerned for Gabbard

The frustration of losing an 18-point lead and ultimately the men’s basketball game against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne was a punch in the face to the North Dakota State men’s basketball players and coaches. Then they suffered a punch to the gut.

Zach Gabbard, the Perham, Minn., high school student who collapsed at a game last Thursday in Glyndon and is currently listed in critical condition, annually attended the Bison basketball camp every summer.

Head coach Saul Phillips and Bison players Freddy Coleman and Eric Carlson spent about three hours with the family Friday night a day after the Bison dropped an 84-80 decision to the Mastodons. They talked with Gabbard’s parents and coaches.

“I’ll say this, it put a few more missed free throws at the end of the game in perspective,” Phillips said. “I’ve been through it before. It’s easy to lose sight of that.”

It’s not easy for Phillips because he’s been through a similar circumstance losing a teammate at Wisconsin-Platteville to a ruptured aorta. It was about a month and a half after Platteville won an NCAA Division III championship.

Gabe Miller was Phillips’ roommate on road games and the two were teammates for three years.

“I was with him earlier in the day,” Phillips said. “He got in a car, went to the doctor and said he didn’t feel right. They said it was a respiratory infection and gave him some medicine and said he would be OK. There was no sign of anything and was similar to (Gabbard’s) case in you’re walking around healthy and happy and nobody envisioned anything.”

Most of the Bison roster has either refereed a team camp that Gabbard’s played in or been involved with him in a different camp.

“I think the message there is just enjoy what you’re doing and try to do it well and understand there are bigger things around here,” Phillips said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970).

He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia