Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball coach Bob Miller not only is amazed by the way David Herbst is playing this season, but the mere fact that he is playing.

Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball coach Bob Miller not only is amazed by the way David Herbst is playing this season, but the mere fact that he is playing.

Herbst, a junior post player who was averaging a team-high 10.5 points through four games, is playing despite having each of his lungs collapse in the past 18 months because of blebs, air bubbles that form on the surface of the lungs as a result of a weakness in the lung tissue. Over time, blebs often grow weak and rupture, which allows air to enter the chest cavity, between the rib cage and lungs. The trapped air causes part or all of a lung to collapse, making it difficult to breathe.

Although Herbst was not aware of it at the time, he was highly susceptible to blebs given his race and his 6-foot-8, 185-pound frame.

"Tall, thin white males tend to get collapsed lungs, so I was the ideal candidate," Herbst said.

Herbst's right lung collapsed in June 2008 while he was sleeping.

"I woke up one morning with a deep pain in my chest," he said. "When I would take a breath, I'd feel a sharp pain. It hurt really bad to take a breath. Honestly, it's the worst pain I've endured. ... I didn't know what was going on. I waited several hours before I told my dad, and he took me to the emergency room."

It didn't take long for the problem to be diagnosed and treated. In order to re-inflate the lung, the air buildup in the chest cavity had to be alleviated.

"(The doctor) made an inch-wide incision on the side of my rib cage and stuck a chest tube in," he said. "It's basically like a hose, which sucks out the air. A lot of blood comes out, too."

Herbst spent several weeks recovering. As a result, he missed all the basketball team's voluntary workouts that summer.

"It takes months before you start feeling well again," he said. "Your lung might be re-inflated, but you still feel bad pain."

Last May, Herbst awoke with the same pain. Right away he recognized what was wrong and immediately went to the emergency room. This time, his left lung had collapsed.

"The second time it was two or three months before there was no pain," he said.

His recovery time was longer the second time in part because he underwent a surgical procedure to have any remaining blebs removed from his lungs. Inch-long incisions were made in each side of his rib cage as well as in his back to allow a small camera to be inserted into his chest cavity so that the doctor could see the blebs.

Although he missed the Cardinals' summer workouts, he was medically cleared to return to playing basketball before the start of preseason practice in early November.

"He's gone through a lot," Miller said. "I can't imagine all the surgeries he's gone through because of collapsed lungs. It's a testament to his wanting to play and his perseverance."

Herbst doesn't worry about suffering another collapsed lung.

"There's a very slim chance it could happen again," he said, though the exercise-induced asthma that he was diagnosed with before his right lung collapsed in June 2008 always will be a concern.

"After a while (of running up and down the court), I start wheezing," he said. "But I have my inhaler for that. Otherwise, I pretty much forget about it."

"The asthma compounds his condition, but it's amazing how long he can go (before needing a break)," Miller said. "You see him get winded, but he fights through it."

Herbst averaged 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds last year as a starter in his first varsity season. This season he is being counted on for more offensive production, as the Cardinals lost two of their three leading scorers to graduation in guards Nick Girardi and Eric Easley. Last season, Girardi averaged 13.2 points and Easley averaged 8.6.

The Cardinals also are without their second-leading scorer from a year ago in senior guard Ty Craig, who averaged 11.1 points. Craig is ineligible for the first 10 games because of an undisclosed reason.

"Last year we had Eric Easley and Nick Girardi," Herbst said. "They were our only seniors and they were the go-to guys. I didn't want to get in their way last year. But this year I'm looking to contribute more."

"He's a lot more aggressive this year," Miller said. "He's leading us in scoring and rebounding. He's close to getting double-doubles in each game. It's amazing what he's accomplished with all that he has gone through and his conditions."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Kilbourne and Thomas boys basketball teams:

KILBOURNE

*Last Friday -- Defeated Westland 49-41. Austin Parker scored 12 points.

Monday -- At Toledo St. Francis Holiday Tournament vs. Liberty Township Lakota East

Tuesday -- At Toledo St. Francis Holiday Tournament vs. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne or St. Francis in championship or consolation game

Jan. 2 -- At Jonathan Alder. Kilbourne won 54-47 last season.

*Jan. 5 -- At Central Crossing. Central Crossing won 65-55 last season.

Of note: The Wolves are 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Central.

THOMAS

Dec. 15 -- Lost to Canal Winchester 61-52. David Herbst scored 12 points, Kyle Price scored 11 and Dillon Crecelius scored 10.

*Last Friday -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 59-41. Herbst scored 10 and Lamar Thornton scored nine.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Westland

Monday-Wednesday -- At Louisville (Ky.) Moore Traditional Mustang Holiday Tournament. Teams from Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee are expected to participate, as well as Kettering Alter.

*Jan. 5 -- At Hilliard Darby

Of note: The Cardinals were 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game