CLEMSON - For 17 days Dwon Clifton waited with an uncomfortable, forced patience, wondering if a diagnosed heart ailment had ended his basketball career.
On day 18, Thursday morning in Atlanta, he found out.
When the Tigers hit the hardwood for an exhibition game Halloween night, the 6-foot-5 sophomore will be there with his teammates, going through pregame drills and sweating hard in an attempt to win a starting spot on coach Larry Shyatt's team.
Shyatt announced Friday that further tests at Emory Hospital in Atlanta showed no heart abnormality in Clifton, as was originally feared. Instead, a team of cardiologists determined that Clifton suffers from Vaso-Vagal, a condition brought on by dehydration and extreme fatigue which can lead to fainting spells.
As such, Clifton will not need medication and immediately was medically cleared to begin workouts.
"There've been a lot of tears of joy," Shyatt said Friday. "Everybody's very happy for Dwon and his family. When the doctor came in the room and spoke those words, there was a lot of celebrating, and of course a hug from his mom. It was a great scene...one I'll remember for a long time."
"I was shocked because I had prepared myself for the worst," Clifton said in a statement. "I was prepared to be told that I could not play. This experience has made my beliefs in God even stronger. I received all kinds of e-mails and calls from Clemson fans who said they were praying for me. I want to thank them. This is a blessing."
Clifton's problems began nearly three weeks ago when he passed out following an individual workout a few days prior to the official opening of practice.
After regaining consciousness, Clifton underwent a battery of tests in Clemson over the next several days and, based on EKG results, the preliminary diagnosis was Long QT Syndrome - an electrical malfunction that doesn't allow the heart to repolarize, or slow down, properly after extreme physical activity.
Left untreated, Long QT Syndrome can cause an abnormal heart rhythm which, in turn, can lead to cardiac death.
Had the original diagnosis held true, Clifton's career would have been over and he likely would have needed a pacemaker. But the Clemson medical staff, led by Dr. Len Reeves, wanted more extensive testing done at Emory as a precaution.
"I compliment our medical team most of all," Shyatt said. "They prepared the family and all of us very well. God forbid they got the worst news, but they were prepared to accept that and, actually, to be thankful that it wasn't worse."
Clifton started 17 games as a freshman in 2001 and, along with Tony Stockman, was the only first-year player to appear in all 31 games. He averaged 3.9 points and 2.6 assists a year ago, and is expected to play a much larger role in Clemson's offense this season.