LA VERNE – Quick thinking by a coach meant a high school basketball standout and his family have a lot to be thankful for this new year.

Senior forward Xavier Jones, 17, collapsed Nov. 24 during practice for his Lutheran High basketball team. But head coach Eric Cooper reacted immediately and was able to revive the athlete.

“He saved his life,” father David Jones said of Cooper, who lives in Ontario.

On Tuesday, Jones will take tests from a cardiologist at UCLA to see if he can continue to play basketball.

“There is a possibility I might be able to play, but it’s kind of slim,” said Jones, noting the decision would be dependent upon taking a series of tests, including a stress test.

The final decision to play or not is frightening, said Jones, who lives in Mira Loma.

“They’re both pretty scary. If I find I’m not playing, it would be more like acceptance or final acceptance. But if I find out I am playing … I’d be happy.”

Before Jones could even think about a cardiologist’s opinion, his coach had to be in the right place at the right time that day in November.

Cooper said he happened to be especially prepared to deal with the emergency. By chance, he had gone through a CPR tutorial application on his iPhone the night before the incident, he said.

Cooper and David Jones chalked it up to intervention from a higher power.

“When it happened, that was too much of a coincidence for me,” Cooper said.

When Jones collapsed, he instructed teammates to call 9-1-1. Cooper couldn’t detect signs of life and began CPR with assistant coach John Osorno.

Cooper said his actions were instinctive.

“I just felt God was leading me in what to do,” Cooper said. “There wasn’t a thought process, just `this is what I had to do’ is what I felt. I have to do this. Don’t hesitate, don’t stop, don’t think.”

By the time paramedics arrived, Jones was breathing again, Cooper said.

Jones was taken to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center where he recovered. He says he still doesn’t remember the incident.

“I remember Thanksgiving night,” Jones said. “I remember someone giving me like a piece a ham. I remember that. Then I remember waking up the next morning and coming to. Yeah, I was really shocked. The last thing I remember is going to bed, and now I’m in the hospital.”

His mother, Linda Jones, described feeling overwhelmed but “very blessed” that her son survived the ordeal.

Jones agreed with his mom.

“After hearing all of the stories and how most people don’t make it out of this alive, I’m real lucky to be here,” said the basketball player.

Family members said he had been diagnosed with a condition that causes thickening of the heart wall known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

“It means my heart is thicker than the normal heart,” Jones said of the condition. “So it works harder. Since it does that, I can’t go through long times of exercise because my heart would stop.”

The condition can be deadly. It killed Loyola Marymount basketball star Hank Gathers, who collapsed during a game after a dunk in 1990.

Jones, a straight-A student, was preparing to attend U.S. Military Academy next year. He said he is still talking to academy officials about attending.

The teen was planning to attend as a premedical student and become a pediatrician, he said.

Coach Cooper said he is in full support of Jones’ career whether or not it includes basketball.

“He wants to be a doctor,” Cooper said. “He can be president of the United States. He ain’t got nothing behind him that’s negative. He’s a positive young man. He reads books all day. He’s one that truly will use basketball to help him progress.”

His father said doctors have planted a device that would defibrillate his heart if the same thing happens again.

Not being able to play anymore would be a big loss, Jones said.

“Basketball has been my primary tool in life,” he said. “It was going to take me everywhere.”

With him in the lineup, Lutheran went 28-8 and won the CIF-SS 5AA and state Division 5 championship last year.

But his family and friends described him as gifted and were thankful he still has his life ahead of him.

“School always came easy for Xavier,” his father said. “He’s a special kid.”

Staff writer Steve Ramirez contributed to this report.

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