The Shot of a Lifetime

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blooming Prairie senior CJ Hein recently scored his first career points for the Awesome Blossoms after serving as the team’s manager over the past five years due to a heart ailment. -- Rocky Hulne/

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — Sometimes one shot is all you need.

That’s what Blooming Prairie senior C.J. Hein has learned recently.

Ever since he was forced to give up basketball due to a heart condition when he entered middle school, Hein stayed as close to the game as he could.

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He served as the team manager and offered as many shooting tips as he could to his teammates. But when this year came around, Hein decided to actually try to be a part of the team on the court. When his doctor cleared him to play with limited physical involvement, he asked BP head coach John Bruns if he could dress with the team.

Bruns said Hein could go through warm-ups with the team, and he could get some playing time if the game ever got out of hand.

That was all Hein needed to hear.

“Being able to be in the warm-ups and getting a minute or a second on the court in a game where my parents can see me means the world to me,” Hein said. “I can’t thank Mr. Bruns enough and the team for getting those leads for me to play.”

After not playing organized basketball since he was a sixth-grader, Hein finally got his chance to get in a couple games for BP over the past two weeks. In his first game action, he came in and got his first rebound, but missed all three of his 3-point attempts. Then last Friday in a 79-50 win over Medford, Hein came in with 18 seconds left in the game and he attempted a deep three that rimmed out, but BP got the rebound and gave him a second chance, which he drilled with three seconds left.

The shot is something Hein will have with him for the rest of his life.

“I’ll never forget it,” Hein said. “It’s my first points since sixth grade.”

The darkest hour

When Hein was growing up in elementary school in BP, he was just like any other kid. He loved playing football, basketball and baseball, and he was as active as they come. Then, when he went to get his physical before his seventh-grade year and after being diagnosed with an extreme heart murmur, he found out he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which meant any physical over-exertion could be lethal for Hein.

When Hein found out he couldn’t play basketball, it was a hit for him and his teammates.

BP senior Michael Thomas remembered Hein being a solid 3-point shooter, and his absence was immediately felt on the court.

“He was one of our better players,” Thomas said. “It was pretty devastating knowing it could happen to anyone, especially one of our friends. It was bad for us.”

Hein, who has an internal defibrillator, faced his biggest test in May 2011 when he went under cardiac arrest.

“I lost my life in a second. I was dead for 10 minutes, and I came back to life,” Hein said. “Many things can be taken away from you quickly, so don’t take anything for granted.”

Bruns said Hein’s presence on the team has helped his squad keep a good, solid perspective on the game of basketball and life in general.

“He’s faced a lot of adversity, and he stays positive,” Bruns said. “In any sport, you get that same type of adversity and it’s hard to stay down when you realize that some people are dealing with a lot more than just a loss on the basketball court. These guys have really learned that over the past few years.”

Making an impact

Hein’s main sport is golf, where he was BP’s second-best golfer at the Section 1A meet last season, but he sees his future in basketball.

After five years of being on the sidelines, Hein has made plenty of observations and he has his eye on coaching basketball in the future.

“When I get older, I’m going to college to get my coaching license,” Hein said. “I play golf, but I’m better at [basketball] with helping people. I’ve learned quite a lot, and I’ve seen very good teams and teams that needed help. I know what kind of coach I want to be and what kind of coach I don’t want to be.”

Hein has already served as BP’s resident ‘shot doctor’ as he worked with Ryan McCabe and Gabe Kartes on their shooting form last season and he’s helped out Dylan Heuer this year.

Thomas and Jimmy Mans, another BP senior, both said they could see Hein coaching in the future and Bruns would like to see him pursue it as well.

“It’s nice having him help out in practice, and it was nice to see him make that shot,” Mans said. “He’s always a pretty optimistic guy when it’s game time, and he’s very helpful with cheering. He’s an inspiration.”

When Hein made his choice on what jersey number he was going to wear this season, it came down to two choices. One that represented his shooting touch and one that represented what he’s gone through in life.

He decided to go with the basketball choice.

“The reason I have no. 3 is it’s the only shot I can make,” Hein said. “All I do is practice threes, and it’s my favorite shot. My mom wanted me to do no. 2 because I have a second chance at life, but no. 3 just meant more to me.”

Learning moderation

Besides being on the BP boys basketball team, Hein also plays basketball in BP’s Sunday night leagues and with his friends.

Hein has learned to keep the pace to a slow walk when he’s getting up and down the court and he mostly hangs around the 3-point arc for perimeter shots.

“I’ve learned my limits. I’ve been able to figure out how far I can go and when I should stop myself,” he said. “I don’t try, because I’ll never be able to play like I used to again. I just do it for fun.”

For now, Hein is focusing on his favorite sport of golf by lifting weights, but he still looks forward to his nights with the basketball team, even if he can’t play the way he used to.

“Running is something I’d like to do, but I know what my future holds,” Hein said. “I don’t want my future to be taken away by something I did. I never play 100 percent with my friends, and I don’t get the mindset to where I have to win. I like to shoot the ball, and I love watching us progress on game days.”

Hein will have few more chances to get in the game as BP will play four of its last six games at home. The Awesome Blossoms will play at Faribault Bethlehem Academy Friday at 7:15 p.m.