Thu, Dec 7, 2023 10:02 PM
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bronny James returned to full-contact basketball practice on Thursday for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest in July, paving the way for the son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James to make his college debut with Southern California.
“He's excited,” USC coach Andy Enfield said after practice.
James did not speak with reporters. Last week, the 19-year-old was cleared by his doctors, and the Trojans had been waiting for their medical staff to give James the go-ahead to join them for full-contact practice.
“He looked good, he looked a hundred percent,” guard Kobe Johnson said. “Just being able to have him back out on the floor, it definitely raises the team morale. It was awesome to have him out there.”
The Trojans (5-3) host Long Beach State on Sunday before playing four straight road games.
“It’ll be a determination how he feels personally and our doctors and trainers and our strength coach, but all indication is he feels great and he looks good,” Enfield said.
James would come off the bench and be on a minutes restriction in his debut.
“We’re expecting him to help us right away because he’s a very good player,” Enfield said, “but at the same time we have the expectation that he’ll get better as time goes on.”
The elder James has said he would attend his son’s first game regardless of whether the Lakers were playing the same day. They are off Sunday.
“Super excited for that moment,” LeBron James said after the Lakers; tournament game in Las Vegas. “Just one, I can’t wait to see him run out with his teammates. And then once he checks into the game, whenever that case may be, it’s going to be a big moment for our family.”
The younger James has been working out individually, doing cardio, weight training and some shooting in recent weeks. He often joined his teammates for pre-game warmups and then took to the bench as the season got underway.
“We're happy with his progress,” Enfield said. “He has to get his timing back and get in game shape, but I thought today was a good first day.”
James was found to have a congenital heart defect that was treatable. He suffered cardiac arrest in July during a workout at Galen Center. He had been playing five-on-five in the summer with his future teammates.
“The fact that he’ll be able to play three-fourths of the basketball season is incredible,” Enfield said.
The Trojans could use him after an up-and-down start to the season, marked by injuries to multiple players. They fell out of the AP Top 25 poll after a two-point loss to Oklahoma and lost to then-No. 11 Gonzaga 89-76 last weekend.
“He brings that energy. Just having his presence around,” Johnson said. “He’s a great defender. A lot of people don’t know that about him, so to have him out there on the defensive end is going to be chaotic.”
James was a McDonald’s All-American, just like his father. The 6-foot-3 guard played at Sierra Canyon School in the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles and chose to stay close to home in picking USC.
Now, he's poised to begin his delayed college career.
“Obviously, it will be a big moment for him,” LeBron James said. “But it’s a big milestone for our family, for sure, and it’s another step for him on his journey in his basketball career.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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