CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Wichita State's Carl Hall is at heart of Shockers' surge

A 6-foot-8 forward who was long sidelined by a condition that led to fainting spells has become the inspirational leader in team's run to NCAA Final Four.

From passed out on a floor to the Final Four — it has been a pulse-rate ride for Carl Hall.

"Oh man, it's been a long journey for me," Hall said.

Wichita State's senior forward, who overcame a heart condition that sidelined him for two years, has become the inspirational leader on the Shockers' surprising four-game run through the NCAA basketball tournament.

Hall introduced himself nationally at the Salt Lake City sub-regional as an undersized 6-foot-8 forward taking on Steven Adams, a 7-footer from Pittsburgh.

Two nights later, Hall was grinding it out inside against Gonzaga's All-American, Kelly Olynyk, in Wichita State's upset over the No. 1-ranked team in the country.

Hall helped hold Olynyk to an eight-for-22 shooting night, but he was miffed about getting only one rebound in the game. "Carl marches to the beat of his own drum," Wichita State Gregg Marshall said.

Hall, from Cochran, Ga., stands out on a hodgepodge roster of characters from a wide range of outposts: Canada, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, New York, Nigeria and Minnesota.

Hall is the Shocker who finally started wearing prescription goggles because, without them, he was Mr. Magoo. Wichita fans thought he was scowling all the time.

"A lot fans were saying, 'Carl, you look so mean,'" Hall said. "I'm like 'I'm not looking mean, I can't see. I'm squinting.'"

Hall is the Shocker who, for five years, meticulously tended to long dreadlocks before cutting them, for no real reason, before the start of the NCAA tournament.

"I sat outside the barbershop for like an hour, like, what am I doing?" Hall said. "I finally built up the courage to go in there and do it."

Teammates called him "Samson" and joked he was going to lose his basketball power, but Hall actually got stronger.

After the haircut, he put the clippings in a plastic trash bag, folded them into a shoebox and mailed the box to his mother in Georgia. "She didn't believe I was going to cut it, so it was kind of like proof," Hall explained.

Hall walked into the postal office and was offered insurance on his shoebox. "Nah," he said, "if it gets lost, it gets lost."

Wichita State would probably not be in the Final Four without Hall's hair.

Marshall has a rule prohibiting long hair unless you had it when he recruited you. Hall says that if Marshall had insisted on a haircut, "I would not have gone to Wichita State."

Hall's trip to the barber had the anti-Samson effect in the NCAA tournament. He scored 10 of his team's first 14 points in Wichita State's West Regional semifinal romp over La Salle at Staples Center on Thursday night.

In Saturday's regional win over Ohio State, Buckeyes star Deshaun Thomas went strongly to the rim and clipped Hall's jaw with an elbow. That sent Hall to the floor in a dazed state that reminded him how close his basketball career came to never getting started.

It has been two and a half 2 1/2 years since Hall passed out cold on a basketball court.

The fainting spells started in high school and forced him to quit basketball after only three games at Middle Georgia College. Doctors initially thought they were because of dehydration caused by playing in humid Georgia gyms.

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