In Play with Tom Markowski

Former Romulus star copes with enlarged heart, continues basketball career in Buffalo

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Former Romulus star copes with enlarged heart, continues basketball career in Buffalo

Buffalo – Three years ago Justin Moss’ basketball career appeared to be over. Diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 2011, Moss wasn’t sure he’d realize his lifetime goal of competing at the collegiate level.

Moss was one of the state’s best post players in ’10 and ‘11. At 6-foot-6 and well over 200 pounds, Moss was the main reason why Romulus was such a formidable team then. Coached by Nate Oats, Romulus reached the Class A quarterfinals in ’11, Moss’ senior season, Moss was selected first team all-state by a number of publications including the Detroit News.

He signed with Toledo and was expected to be a force in the Mid-American Conference for years to come.  

That August Moss took a physical. He was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or, simply, an enlarged heart. When informed of the results the basketball staff and administrators at Toledo put up a stop sign.

“They shut him down,” Oats said. “They weren’t going to let him play.”
Moss was uncertain about his future. His mother, Carmen Evans, was frightened and worried that her son would become depressed.

“It was a very scary time,” Evans said. “If he wasn’t playing basketball, I’m not living. He said those words to me.”

Evans took action. She took her so to see a heart specialist in Baltimore and it was recommended that Moss, if he wanted to play, most have surgery. That November Moss had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) inserted in his chest, near his heart. The surgery was a success but Moss’ needed a few months to recover.

“For a while, I couldn’t lift my left arm,” he said. “(The doctors) didn’t want me to do any physical work. It was painful.”

Evans said the doctors cleared her son to play but administrators at Toledo weren’t taking any chances. They refused to allow Moss to play.

Moss and his mother understood. On Oct. 9, 2006, Haris Charalambous, a member of the Toledo basketball team, died of an acute heart condition. A portion of Charalambous’ aorta tore away and blood seeped into the sac that surrounds the heart. The result was the heart was unable to pump properly.

Nevertheless, Moss was determined to keep playing, for a university or elsewhere.

“I was driving home from work,” Evans said. “I didn’t know where Justin was. When I found him he was playing (basketball) with his friends. So we had to find a place for him to play. Justin said he wanted to play and would play no matter what, even if it was (recreation) ball. So Nate found Indian Hills Junior College (IA). We signed a waiver so he could play.”

Moss played for one year at Indian Hills then transferred to Schoolcraft College.