SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah State basketball player who collapsed at practice and had to be revived after he stopped breathing is improving and making good progress, school officials said Wednesday night, although the player remains in critical condition.
Danny Berger is awake and talking to his family in a Salt Lake City area hospital, Utah State basketball team doctor Trek Lyons said at a press conference in Logan. Tubes used to help Berger breathe have been removed.
"He recognizes his family, his doctors and the instructions he is given," Lyons said. "It is a good sign and a sign of improving."
Doctors still don't know what caused the 22-year-old Berger to collapse on the court during a practice Tuesday in Logan.
Berger doesn't have any known pre-existing condition or heart problems, Lyons said.
"As a well-conditioned athlete, he goes through a stress test every day," Lyons said. "It just reminds us that some things are still unpredictable."
A team of doctors — including cardiologists, pulmonologists and trauma specialists — is running tests on Berger in the intensive care unit at Intermountain Medical Center in a Salt Lake City suburb, said hospital spokesman Jess Gomez.
Berger is responding the way "doctors want him to," older brother John brother said Wednesday afternoon.
"As of right now, things are looking good," John Berger said in a statement he read to reporters.
John Berger was with his sister, Lauren Berger. They did not take any questions.
Despite the improvements, Berger remains in critical condition, Gomez said.
Longtime Utah State assistant athletic trainer Mike Williams is being credited with saving Berger's life.
The incident happened in the middle of Tuesday's practice when Berger collapsed into the arms of teammate Kyisean Reed as he moved toward the sideline. He was no longer breathing when he hit the court, Lyons said.
Within a minute or two, Williams used a defibrillator on Berger, who was in full cardiac arrest, he said. The shocks helped Berger regain a pulse. He was taken to a hospital in Logan before being flown by helicopter to the regional trauma center in the Salt Lake City area.
Williams, who has been at the university for 14 years, handled the situation perfectly, Lyons said.
"He had a calm, clear mind the entire time. He handled it perfectly," Lyons said. "Danny's condition is in large degree to a man keeping his mind under pressure."
Berger's brother specifically thanked Williams in the family's statement.
"He saved my brother's life and I thank God for him," John Berger said, tearing up as he read the statement.
Danny Berger was born in Fort Collins, Colo., and went to high school in Medford, Ore. He played basketball at Chemeketa Community College in Oregon before coming to play for Utah State. The junior is a starter at forward and averages 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.
A game scheduled for Wednesday night between Utah State and Brigham Young in Provo was postponed because of Berger's condition, school officials said. No date has been selected to play the game.
Utah State's home game against Western Oregon will go on as scheduled, Barnes said.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said he was 100 percent behind the decision to postpone the game.
"That's an emotional thing for the players and an emotional thing for the coaches," Rose said. "Even though they got him breathing before he left the gym, I think it would still have a really emotional effect on your team."
Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said Berger's coaches and teammates are deeply concerned about him and have been his side the entire time.
"They are holding each other up through this thing," Barnes said. "At a time like this, the actual athletic event takes a back seat."
Messages of thoughts and prayers have been pouring in from fans and universities across the country, Barnes said. About the support, John Berger said, "I know that you have made a difference in keeping my brother alive."
Students at the campus in rural Logan were stunned by the turn of events as they prepared for the big rivalry game with BYU, which will be rescheduled.
"Everybody is in shock, and in awe of how it can happen to such a good guy," said Karson Kalian of Utah State's HURD student section. "He is one of the hardest-working people on the court. He's got a lot of determination and shows a lot of heart."
Kalian noted that social media sites have lit up with support for Berger, his family and the Aggies basketball team. "It feels more like Danny is our brother and we're one big family," Kalian said.
He praised BYU for postponing the game, saying, "Life is more important than basketball."
There's no question fans were looking forward to the rivalry. BYU twitter posts indicated students had been camping out for two days to get the best seats available in the new student section at the Marriott Center.
Last year, Utah State students camped out for three days to do the same at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
After Utah State's football team lost 6-3 to BYU in Provo this fall, Kalian said there was plenty of energy building to avenge that loss on the basketball court.
Now the energy is being spent on Berger, with hopes and prayers that he recovers fully.
Even BYU's basketball team sent its thoughts and prayers to Berger through a Twitter post, as did the Saint Mary's team, which beat the Aggies earlier this year.
Kalian said Berger deserves support.
"There's not one person who will say anything bad about Danny Berger. If there was an athlete you could label as the perfect guy, it would be Danny Berger," he said.
AP Sports Writer Lynn DeBruin and Associated Press Writer Jay Wamsley contributed to this report.