CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The only player with NCAA experience at St. John's will be wearing a San Diego State uniform when the eighth-seeded Aztecs (26-8) face the ninth-seeded Red Storm (21-11) Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Dwayne Polee II was Steve Lavin's first recruit for a 2010-11 St. John's team loaded with 10 seniors, and he became Lavin's first "one-and-done'' player when he transferred after his freshman season to be close to his ailing mother in Los Angeles.
"It was a hard decision to make, but I had to do what I had to do,'' Polee said Thursday. "There's no bad blood between me and St. John's. I left on good terms.''
Polee had a 12-point effort in St. John's 86-71 loss to Gonzaga in that 2011 NCAA game. Unlike St. John's, Polee has been back to the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons with the Aztecs, but there was some doubt he would make it this season.
Polee collapsed on the court in a Dec. 22 game and had to be rushed to the hospital. He subsequently was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and underwent surgery to implant a heart monitor. Polee, who averages 7.6 points per game, returned on Feb. 21 and has played six games since then, scoring in double figures twice.
Although he collapsed once in practice the previous season, Polee said, "When it happened, it was just a lot of confusion. I felt kind of dizzy. The next thing you know, I wake up with my family, my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, my teammates, my coaches, the ambulance people, the trainers and everybody over me. It's a lot of confusion.
"Moving forward, it was a matter of the closest people to me keeping me real positive. It would have been easy to get down on myself and be ready to quit. But they kept me positive, and my doctors did a great job.''
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said he worried when Polee returned to practice, but he added, "We feel Dwayne is good to go. There are no restrictions on him. He's going to play, and our hope is he'll play well.''