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Perham's Zach Gabbard cleared to practice

Zach Gabbard has been cleared to practice by doctors and said he hopes to play in a game this season for Perham. Bob Williams / Forum Communications

PERHAM, Minn. - Compared to where he was nearly 11 months ago, Zach Gabbard has come a long way.

The Perham High School basketball player has been cleared by doctors to practice after he collapsed due to cardiac arrest during a Jan. 20 boys basketball game in Glyndon, Minn.

The news of Gabbard's latest step toward returning to the court for the Yellowjackets came Wednesday via Twitter from Minnesota State High School League Media Specialist John Millea.

"I got an email from (Perham athletic director Fred Sailer), and apparently he was cleared and started practicing (on Tuesday)," Millea said by phone. "I was sitting at a meeting and I saw that email and put together the tweet and great news like that moves fast."

Millea said he didn't know when Gabbard would be close to playing in a game. Phone calls made to Sailer and Perham coach Dave Cresap were not returned Wednesday.

Perham's regular season starts Friday at Crosby-Ironton. The Yellowjackets' first home game is Dec. 6 against Staples-Motley.

Perham senior point guard Jordan Bruhn said it was a little weird to have Gabbard back at practice because of how long it has been.

Bruhn said Gabbard, a guard, has been working with the team taking shots and he's been running up and down the court. According to Bruhn, there are times when Cresap will tell Gabbard to take a break.

Other than the breaks between running, Bruhn said Gabbard is making strides. "His shot - it's actually better than mine," Bruhn said.

Following his Jan. 20 collapse, Gabbard was transferred to a hospital in the Twin Cities where he underwent several procedures.

During the early stages of his rehab, Gabbard shocked the state by showing up to Perham's opening round game at the Minnesota State state basketball tournament in March to cheer on his teammates.

Gabbard watched from a wheelchair as Perham grabbed a win en route to winning the school's first state basketball championship.

"When I saw him at Williams Arena, I don't think I'd ever laid eyes on him before. That moment if you told me he'd be practicing months later, I wouldn't have believed it," Millea said. "I'd love to see him in Perham practicing. It'd be the neatest thing ever."

Gabbard returned to Perham in April to undergo more rehab and was seen around the community at various events including high school baseball games. He was cleared to go home in June and a month later was the subject of a documentary film, "For Three," which detailed Gabbard's collapse and Perham's run to the state tournament.

"I don't think about him having a cardiac arrest," Bruhn said. "It will always be there that he went through it, but it is in the past. I see him as another teammate, like everything is normal."

Gabbard spent quite a few days after school at the gym where Perham plays its basketball games. He was even there prior to a recent playoff volleyball game between Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Wadena-Deer Creek working on his shot.

That's when Gabbard told The Forum his goal was to play at some point during his senior year. It appears perhaps he might get that chance.

"I knew that he'd get cleared eventually," Bruhn said. "I wasn't too into the details in terms of where he's at, but I am just not surprised he got cleared."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark's Force blog can be found