Britton Johnsen will stay home this weekend to rest and recover.
March 11, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
Utah senior forward Britton Johnsen, who today was named to the USBWA all-district team, has been diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis and will not accompany the team to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Team officials hope that his enlarged spleen will have returned to normal size when doctors run another set of tests on him on Monday.
"Britton is not acutely ill at this time," says team physician Dr. Dave Petron, "But we can't take the chance of him participating this week since the ultrasound showed he has an enlarged spleen. I am optimistic that he will be able to play in the NCAA Tournament."
The 6-10, 210-pounder first began feeling ill on Feb. 27, two days before Utah's game against New Mexico. On the day of the game, he awoke with a headache, sore throat and the chills. Thinking he had the flu, he did not report his condition to the team trainer or his coaches.
"I felt sick and my wind wasn't very good, but I've fought through colds and flu before so I didn't tell anyone," says Johnsen, who averaged just six points in the next three games before breaking out with a 17-point, 6-rebound effort in Utah's final home game last Saturday.
"Britton has had symptoms for about two weeks but mono presents itself in a lot of different ways and it frequently takes that long for the tests to turn up positive," says Petron, who said that Johnsen was tested for mono and given an ultrasound on Mar. 10, at which time his condition surfaced.
"Britton showed great heart and tremendous spirit in trying to play through a case of mono," says Utah Head Coach Rick Majerus. "He was ill-advised in trying to conceal his condition from the trainers and coaches, but he wanted to be a team player. If Britton Johnsen is anything, it's a team player. He has been the heart and soul of our team for two years.
"Britton wanted to accompany the team to Las Vegas and cheer on his teammates, but the physicians advised him he would be better off staying in Salt Lake City. I agree wholeheartedly with that decision," continues Majerus.
This is the second setback this year for Johnsen, who is averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. A first-team all-league choice a year ago and the 2002 Mountain West Conference and USBWA District VIII Player of the Year, Johnsen has played with a torn ligament in his right thumb for most of the season. He sustained the thumb injury against Utah State on Dec. 17 and finished the game before undergoing surgery. After missing two games, Johnsen returned to the lineup, playing with a splint on his hand until late January.
"Britton has played through a torn ligament in his hand that severely hampers his ability to shoot, dribble or pass the ball and he has done so without complaint," says Majerus. "I can't say enough about him attempting to play through this type of illness as well. However, I told him that courage can only carry you so far and he needs to rest and recover."
Johnsen, whose 1,051 career points ranks 27th all-time at Utah, has scored in double figures in 16 games this season. Replacing him in the lineup at the MWC Tournament will be freshman Richard Chaney.
"Obviously, we're losing one of the premier players in the league," says Majerus, who noted his team is now down to nine scholarship players. "Richard will start instead of Britton, but Britton can't be replaced. We are optimistic that he will be able to return to practice next week."