Gateway’s Rogers eager to return to basketball court after recovery from heart bypass surgery

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 | 10:11 PM


Being away from the basketball court for any length of time normally is a foreign concept for Alvis Rogers.

The third-year Gateway boys head coach enjoys keeping his mind and body sharp in the game he loves.

But a medical issue and subsequent surgery late last month now has the former Wake Forest standout on the road to recovery and also anxious for the time he can be back with his Gators players and coaching colleagues.

“I’ve missed the guys, my players,” said Rogers, in his seventh year overall with the Gateway boys basketball program.

“It’s a weird feeling not doing any coaching right now. I am used to going to practices, planning for games, coaching the games and doing other things involved in a season. Being confined to the house is tough, but I know the guys are in good hands. They know it, too.”

On Dec. 16, in the middle of the first week of Gov. Tom Wolf’s covid-related shutdown of winter sports seasons, the Pittsburgh region was blanketed by almost six inches of snow.

A couple of days later, Rogers, at his home in Green Tree, decided to head outside to move some of the remaining snow that had not already melted. While shoveling, he said he experienced tightness in his chest.

“I wasn’t throwing the snow. I was just pushing it down the hill and letting gravity do its work,” said Rogers, who turned 61 that day.

Later in the day, while having dinner, he experienced additional discomfort, and it spurred Rogers, along with his wife, Cheryl, to head to the emergency room at UPMC Presbyterian in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“That morning, I got up and felt fine,” he said.

Tests revealed some arterial blockage, and bypass surgery was ordered for that Monday, Dec. 21.

“They said it was a good thing that I came in when I did because I was on my way to having a heart attack,” Rogers said.

“Nothing was fully blocked, but there were several places where they found blockage. Everything was away from the heart. The heart muscle and outer wall are as strong as ever.”

He recovered at Presby for one week and was discharged Dec. 28.

“The doctors and staff (at Presby) took really good care of me,” Rogers said.

He said well-wishers contacted him in all forms to express their support, and those contacts meant the world to him.

“I feel healthier, more alert, and not as tired as I was before this episode,” said Rogers, who is rehabbing at home by walking, riding a bike and doing squat exercises.

“The biggest thing is to get my strength and my cardio back.”

The Gators currently are under the in-person direction of assistant coaches Verne Benson, a former head coach at East Allegheny and Valley, and Ed Meli, who coached with Benson at East Allegheny.

“They are doing a really good job, as always,” Rogers said. “They know what needs to be done in practice, and they have the players ready to go for games. The guys are playing well.”

Benson said he and the players receive text messages from Rogers offering his assessment of game performances, what they can work on to keep improving and also encouragement after positive results.

“We all miss (Rogers),” Benson said. “I know he misses being out there, too. Once coaching is in your blood, it’s hard to step away from it for any length of time. It didn’t surprise me how much he has wanted to stay involved from afar. It’s great to hear updates on how he is doing.”

Rogers said he talked with his doctors the other day, and he expects to be allowed to begin driving Jan. 25. That day, he also is scheduled to have cardiac rehab therapy.

Rogers said he could return to the team for practices and games early next month, but nothing is set in stone at the moment.

Gateway has four games scheduled in February, beginning with a section contest at Woodland Hills on Feb. 2.

The Gators are 2-1, both overall and in Section 3-5A, after Friday’s 84-61 victory over Latrobe behind 19 points from Will Kromka and 19 more from Ryan Greggerson. They also own a win over Woodland Hills from Jan. 8 and suffered a loss to Penn Hills on Jan. 12.

“When we first heard what happened to coach Rogers, it hit us all pretty hard,” said Kromka, a junior guard/forward.

“It was very unexpected. But I think we were all able to handle it pretty well. We’ve all kept coach Rogers in our thoughts and prayers from the start. He’s such a big part of our team, and we miss him. We can’t wait for him to come back when he can.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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