Austin Freeman hadn't felt like himself in weeks. At first, the Georgetown junior guard thought he had caught the stomach virus that was going around campus and he tried to play through it. Yet every time he believed he had kicked what was ailing him, it would come roaring back the next day.
Finally, on March 1, Freeman woke up in a hotel room in West Virginia knowing he wasn't going to be able to play that night. Georgetown senior communications director Bill Shapland put Freeman in his car that morning and drove 3½ hours back to Washington to Georgetown University Hospital. Freeman spent most of the trip lying on the backseat.
About 24 hours and a battery of tests later, doctors told Freeman he had diabetes. It was a diagnosis he never expected to hear, a club he never wanted to join. Yet by this time, he was just happy to have some answers.
"Just knowing what is going on now is a high," said Freeman, who had eight points and four assists in a 69-49 win over South Florida Wednesday in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. "It's nice to know what is going on."
Freeman is learning how to manage a disease he will have for the rest of his life, and he's learning on the fly. He was back on the court four days after his diagnosis, scoring a game-high 24 points in a win over Cincinnati in Georgetown's regular-season finale. Then yesterday, he played a very healthy 37 minutes.
The diagnosis is so recent that it hasn't even been determined whether Freeman has type I or type II diabetes. (In type I, usually found in children and young adults, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to properly control blood glucose (sugar) levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, only 5 to 10 percent of diabetics have type I. In type II, marked by high levels of blood glucose, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.)
For now, the Hoyas are playing with Stephen Clement, director of Georgetown University's Diabetes Center, on the bench. During games he and team trainer Lorry Michel regularly measure Freeman's blood sugar with a hand-held monitor.
"As long as we can limit the sways in his blood-sugar levels, we don't anticipate" a problem, coach John Thompson III said. "He's been doing fine."
Freeman, Georgetown's leading scorer with a 17.3-point average, said he feels fine physically. Mentally, he admits it is taking some time to process what has happened and get used to a regimen to manage his disease.
"I'm going through a lot of crazy stuff right now, learning how to control a lot of stuff," he said. "It's an adjustment period."
Though it is something he never paid attention to before, Freeman is finding out that a number of athletes have played with diabetes. Chris Dudley, who spent 16 seasons in the NBA, was diagnosed in high school. The Lakers' Adam Morrison, an All-American at Gonzaga, found out he had type I in eighth grade following a seizure after a basketball game.
Said Freeman: "I haven't had a chance yet, but I'm supposed to talk to Morrison. Just knowing that there are guys that are out there who have played with this gives me hope that I can do the same thing. I feel great. I feel like I can."