BETHANY — Over a six-week period from late December to early February, Putnam City West junior Tyson Jolly established himself as one of the state’s best high school basketball players.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17 points and seven rebounds per game, was named the MVP of two prestigious tournaments and began to attract attention from major college recruiters all over the country.
And he did it all with a virtual ticking time bomb in his chest.
This weekend, top-ranked PC West will play for a chance to go to its second consecutive state basketball tournament, with hopes of bringing back the team’s first gold ball.
The Patriots face Lawton Eisenhower at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Choctaw with a state tournament bid on the line, and Jolly will be on the bench, frustrated that he’s unable to help. But the fact he is still alive is miraculous.
While PC West was in Miami, Fla., the last week of December, Jolly developed a hacking cough. It didn’t slow his MVP performance as the Patriots won the Jr. Orange Bowl Classic.
But after the tournament, he began coughing up blood. Diagnosed as pneumonia, he was given medicine and an inhaler, but neither worked. He rested up before the Patriots got back to action in the Putnam City Invitational the second weekend of January.
The cough wasn’t gone, and his energy level was down, but he still was named MVP in the tournament that vaulted PC West to No. 1 in Class 6A following a victory over Tulsa Union.
Over the next month, Jolly would get more tests, more pneumonia diagnoses’, more medicines and more inhalers. But nothing helped his cough or his breathing.
PC West coach Lenny Bert held Jolly out of a couple games, and the team had a long break while others were playing tournaments in late January. Then the weather postponed some games. But the rest didn’t help Jolly.
On Feb. 7, Bert pulled Jolly out of a game against Choctaw after just a couple minutes, because he could tell something wasn’t right.
Bert began communicating with a heart specialist who he came in contact with through PC West athletic director Mandy Stuber. The specialist suggested it might be a pulmonary embolism.
On the afternoon of Feb. 11, the Patriots were going through normal pre-game preparations for a game against Yukon. Jolly had already been told he wasn’t playing, but he still wanted to be around his teammates.
“At about 1:45, Coach Bert texted me and gave me the name of a pulmonary doctor at OU Medical Center,” said Jolly’s mother, Neoshia Jolly. “I called, but they said they couldn’t get him in until April. So we didn’t know what to do.”
About an hour later, as Tyson walked through the hallway toward the locker room, he passed out.
“He was trying to play it off like he tripped over his backpack,” Bert said. “But his backpack was on his back. He was sweating. I asked him what happened, and he didn’t know.”