Ute basketball: Point guard has new outlook after brain surgery
If his hair is cut just right, Glen Dean's scar may be visible to the naked eye. Otherwise, evidence of the condition that changed and almost ended his life last December remains hidden.
The Utah point guard says his game is almost back to full strength. After sitting out last season as a transfer from Eastern Washington, Dean will finally play basketball officially again in less than two weeks. He will likely be coach Larry Krystkowiak's opening-night starter for the Utes, with an advanced court sense and a consistent jumper that Ute fans at the Huntsman Center will happily welcome.
But his career almost came to a premature end.
It began innocently enough. A headache, some Ibuprofen and a few missed days of practice. Eventually, Dean knew something was drastically amiss. Emergency brain surgery for a broken blood vessel ensued, followed by a lengthy stay in the intensive care unit at the Huntsman Medical Center.
Dean, Krystkowiak said, was lucky to have a hospital so accessible. His teammates and friends thought he was simply playing around. To his mother, it all still seems surreal.
"From what I was told, it was going to happen to me regardless," Dean said. "Anything that was strenuous to me at the time could've triggered it. I could've been helping somebody move, or doing yardwork. It wouldn't have mattered."
Sitting in the Utes' fashionably remodeled locker room, Dean looks physically indestructible. His muscular arms tell the story of someone who spends a significant amount of time in the weight room. His quiet demeanor indicates a determined maturity that belies his 22 years.
Which makes what happened last December all the more difficult to comprehend. Never had Dean felt so weak, so out of control. He remembers the loss of eyesight, the blurry vision. Jason Washburn asking him if he was OK. Jiggy Watkins checking up on him after practice. Dean couldn't make out their faces, but he could tell them apart by voice recognition.
Once he crossed the street with Aaron Dotson. He couldn't see the cars, so Dotson had to guide him, almost like walking a blind man.
"We all thought he was joking at first, and we didn't really take it seriously," Dotson said. "Once we realized that something was wrong, it became pretty scary for all of us."
The ruptured vessel was causing Dean intense headaches and dizziness. He was light-headed and nauseated. Loud noises were too much for him. Eventually, Dean couldn't sit on the bench for more than the first half of last season's game against BYU.
"I still can't put it all into words," his mother, Judi Sinclair, says now. "I know it happened, but it was such a crazy thing to deal with at the time. To be honest, I'm still in shock about it."
'Something the world will remember'
Dean's been through more than most people his age.
After his father, also named Glen, left the family when Dean was young, he became attached to his grandfather. Van Kelsie taught him to be accountable, setting an example by working every day in construction for the city of Seattle.
Kelsie died last year, compounding the struggles of the surgery and Dean missing the season with his transfer. If ever Dean had a hero in life, it was his grandfather, whom he speaks of reverently.
Dean and his father are closer now. The two speak periodically on the phone. The conversations are more man-to-man than father-to-son.
"I love my dad," Dean said. "I know he's a good man. I wish he would've been around to see more of my games. To me, though, I just look at it like he wasn't there physically."
Added Sinclair: "His dad was a good dad. He cared about Glen, but he was at a different place in his life. He was just absent, and he had a dysfunctional lifestyle when Glen was young. I've always taught Glen to make his own choices and to form his own opinions. I've told him that's the most powerful thing he would ever have. I remember when he was an infant. I would tell people that Glen would be something the world will remember. He's doing that now."
With Dean's mother out of work until recently, the family has suffered significant financial hardship. Dean, in an effort to help out, sends a portion of his financial aid check home each month, intended to cover housing and food costs.
A fresh start
College basketball is a guard's game, and Utah has had precious little in the way of good guard play in recent seasons.
Dean will have two years to direct Utah's offense. He comes from Eastern Washington as an All-Big Sky talent. He averaged 13.3 points per game as an EWU sophomore, having emerged from Seattle's rich talent base, through Laurinberg Prep in North Carolina, to EWU and finally to Salt Lake City.
"He's someone that's mature on and off the court," Krystkowiak said. "He's got to be a leader and a guy that we can rely on."
Dean is listed at 5-foot-10, but is closer to 5-8. However, he is explosive off the dribble, strong in his upper body, can shoot the ball from the perimeter and has developed a nice floater in the lane. He makes good decisions on the pick-and-roll and can create his own shot.
Dean and Watkins are similar players in that regard, but Utah coaches are optimistic that Dean has much more to work with around him than Watkins did.
Most importantly, Dean has realized that basketball and everyday life is a gift. Nothing is guaranteed, so every moment has to be maximized. His new life starts Nov. 2, the day of the Utes' exhibition opener against Simon Fraser. He plans to make the most of it.
"The last year has been very difficult," Dean said. "It was difficult to sit out, it was hard to see my grandfather pass away. Everything was hard. But I kind of look at this as a fresh start."
Glen Dean file
• Is a native of Seattle, Wash.
• Grew up next door to Louisville point guard Peyton Siva
• Was an All-Big Sky pick as a sophomore at Eastern Washington
• Originally committed to Portland State out of high school
• Averaged 13.3 points per game as a sophomore at EWU