ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) When New Mexico forward Devon Williams lost feeling in his extremities after a fall during a road game Sunday, his life changed.
He regained movement about 10 minutes later, even before he got into the ambulance that took him to the hospital in Las Cruces, New Mexico. But on Wednesday he got the news that in treating him, doctors discovered he has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine, and he was advised to stop playing.
''It was really hard,'' he said during a news conference in Albuquerque on Thursday. ''I was thinking about it a lot. I kind of teared up and everything. But I realized that I'm still blessed to be able to walk because there was a chance that I could be paralyzed.''
A redshirt junior who had started 30 games a season ago, Williams will be missed on the court even as his role with the team changes, said Lobos coach Craig Neal.
Neal said that Williams will now act as another coach, sitting in on meetings and helping the Lobos prepare for their next opponent.
''I think he'll be helpful to them (the other players) and they'll also be helpful to him through this process, which isn't going to be easy,'' he said. ''I think it's going to make the team stronger. It will make them tougher.''
And it's a lesson for them.
''They have to own it,'' Neal said. ''What I mean by own it is they have to take the responsibility that it's not a given every day. And Devon is the perfect example. You can wake up and it's gone.''
Players wrote his initials and number on their shoes for Wednesday's 75-51 win over Loyola-Chicago, but meeting with them was still painful for Williams.
''We were kind of joking around a little bit, just trying to not keep things sad but it was kind of hard thinking about it and talking about everything,'' Williams said. ''We tried to have an uplifting vibe about it.''