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New Utah Jazz center Francisco Elson plays to honor late brother

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 6 2010 12:07 a.m. MDT

"Anything I did," Elson said, "I always had to have people around me, trying to look over me and see if everything was all right."

Another reminder always was within reach.

He dubbed it his "S.O.S." chain, and it came with instructions in case of medical emergency: "All the descriptions of what I had was in this little medallion I had around my neck."

After a while, Elson had had enough.

He didn't care if anyone was willing to give him permission or watch over him.

"I never really played, or did anything," Elson said. "Then one day I just got sick of it, and I used to sneak out of the house and just go play basketball on my own."

It wasn't long before he was busted, and the one whose feelings mattered most found out.

"Somebody told her they saw me playing outside, and she asked me what I was doing," said Elson, his voice sounding now as if he'd just been caught. "I said I just played a little bit, and she asked me if I really wanted to play."

He did.

The pain of her loss hurt no less.

But Orsine, Francisco suggested, knew then it was time to loosen the strings and finally share the secret.

"He (Patrick) told my mom if I ever played that I never should stop playing," Elson said. "They (his mother and sister) told me he didn't want me to stop playing basketball.

"He talked to my mom, and he told her I had something going on, because I was fast. He probably saw something nobody else saw."

Well, maybe there were a few.

Francisco acknowledged as much, though not before a deep breath and a long pause.

"Other people," he said, "also said, 'Why don't you come back and play basketball? Your brother probably would have liked it if you came back.' "

Before Orsine would give her blessing, however, she demanded a battery of tests.

Just to be sure.

Things didn't go well.

"We did all the exams — heart exams, specialists," he said. "And they discovered a leaky valve."

Francisco's aortic valve wasn't closing properly, causing blood to leak backward and forcing his heart to work harder.

If it toiled too much, it could become enlarged.

But even knowing that didn't stop him.

A scout in Europe saw Francisco play, and before he knew it he was trying out for the Dutch national team he now captains.

American coaches caught wind of him via a basketball magazine and he wound up at Kilgore College in Texas.

Still, there was a hurdle to be cleared.

It was huge, and had little to do with his decidedly limited basketball skills and similarly limited ability to speak English.

He needed medical clearance.

Initially, Elson couldn't get it.

The staff at Kilgore heard about his brother and thought, "No way."

"We were not aware of (Patrick's passing) until Francisco explained it to us," then-Kilgore coach Scott Schumacher said, "and that's why we were so cautious."

Francisco, unable to take part in preseason practice, was devastated.

"They killed my whole dream for playing basketball, and pursuing my brother's dream," he said.

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