Back when he was vomiting every day, losing weight rapidly and wondering why, it must have been hard for Shawn Kemp Jr. to envision the day he would score in double digits again in a Pac-12 Conference basketball game.
While Washington’s junior forward says he isn’t quite back to 100 percent after being diagnosed with a thyroid condition called Graves’ disease, Kemp finally is healthy enough to step back into his role as one of the Huskies’ three big men who play regular minutes.
UW will again need Kemp’s size and rebounding efforts as it hosts the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1). Oregon will attempt to shuck a four-game losing streak while the Huskies try to get untracked after losing last week at California and Stanford.
In the latter loss, there was at least a silver lining: Kemp scored
13 points and grabbed six rebounds in 19 minutes, signs that the 6-foot-9 forward is playing to his capabilities after spending the first couple months of the season trying to regain the strength and weight that was zapped from him while doctors tried to figure out the problem.
Eventually, they began medicating Kemp for Graves’ disease, one of the most common thyroid problems, according to WebMD. It’s a treatable condition, but one that must be properly medicated to mitigate side effects and symptoms.
That medication is working, Kemp said, and when he weighed himself Tuesday, he was at 255 pounds — exactly where he wants to be.
After a brutal summer and early fall that forced Kemp to miss much of UW’s preseason training camp, he had fallen to 233.
“I went back home for break for about a week, and I came back up here and started workouts early. They thought I was out of shape, but it wasn’t that,” Kemp said Wednesday, speaking at length about the disease for the first time publicly. “I was throwing up literally every day, and it was getting to the point where they noticed something was wrong, so they tried to see what was going on.”
The diagnosis was a relief, Kemp said. But he’s plenty conscious of the fact that it’s something he’ll have to deal with for the rest of his life. He credits his mother and coach Lorenzo Romar for helping him through it.
“I knew it was something I was going to have to overcome,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be easy. Many people told me that it’s not the end of the world. ‘There’s a lot of successful people that have Graves’ disease that went through the same thing that you’re going through.’ So I knew I’d be able to get through. At first, it was tough, but I feel like I overcame it.”
He lives a little healthier now, he said, eating better and paying more attention to his body.
At this point, he’s more worried about basketball, particularly rebounding well, and staying out of foul trouble and on the court. Kemp had a mini-breakthrough earlier this season at Arizona, where he scored nine points but played only 10 minutes before fouling out.
“I’m still adjusting,” Kemp said. “It’s not hard to see out there that they call a foul almost every other play. It’s something I’ve got to adjust to with the new (hand-checking) rule. Hopefully it gets a little better.”
Romar hopes he can be a factor defensively, too, even if he’s not the shot-swatting presence the Huskies lack.
“I think he just does it a different way. He is 6-9, 6-10, 255 pounds with strength,” Romar said. “So around there, he can body people up, he can be there, he can get big — wall up, as we call it — and he can help in that regard.”
OREGON (13-4, 1-4 PAC-12) AT WASHINGTON (11-8, 3-3)
8 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: Fox Sports 1. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Washington leads, 187-108.
Scouting report: UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Wednesday that he told his team not to focus on Oregon’s four-game losing streak, but instead on the fact the Ducks began the season 13-0 and were ranked in the nation’s top 10. Indeed, Pac-12 play has not been kind to Oregon, which looked during nonconference play as if it could challenge Arizona for the Pac-12 title. That seems a pipe dream now, although the Ducks still are one of the quickest, most dangerous offensive teams in the country. They average 87.4 points per game, which ranks third nationally. In that regard, this might be a good matchup for the Huskies, if only because they prefer a wide-open, up-and-down game, and because the Ducks’ tallest player, 6-foot-11 Waverly Austin, appears questionable to play because of an illness. Teams with big front lines have given UW trouble this season. But if UW can match Oregon’s quickness and defend in transition, it shouldn’t have to worry about getting battered by the Ducks’ size — though Mike Moser, a UNLV transfer who considered UW, is a big-time difference maker at the power forward position.
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