Ronny Turiaf admits he's shy about anyone seeing the six-inch scar down the center of his chest, still pink five months after surgery. Instead, the former Gonzaga...

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YAKIMA — Ronny Turiaf admits he’s shy about anyone seeing the six-inch scar down the center of his chest, still pink five months after surgery. Instead, the former Gonzaga star points to the “Never Lose Faith” tattoo across his back.


The tattoo was there long before doctors cracked open his chest to repair a potentially life-threatening heart condition that at least temporarily derailed his future with the Los Angeles Lakers, who chose him in the second round (37th overall) of the 2005 NBA draft.


“It definitely means more now,” he said of the tattoo’s message. “I’m a prime example that anything can happen to anybody. I’ve always said you have to ride your life ’til the wheels fall off.”


His wheels may be the only thing holding the 22-year-old back from joining the Lakers. Two games into a stint with the CBA’s Yakama Sun Kings to rehabilitate after surgery, Turiaf has scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in 39 minutes.


The jump hook is still there. The defense remains as intense as his passion for basketball.


“Five months ago, it was very hard to think about playing,” he said with a grimace. “It was difficult, and it was a long process, but I’m pretty happy it came to an end. It’s not over yet, but it’s still a pretty good step, to be able to play five-on-five, being in front of referees. It’s a first step.”


Turiaf still has several hurdles to clear, including improving his conditioning and skills, before the Lakers will consider signing him, Lakers spokesman John Black said.


Note


• Washington State’s Molly Alexander has been named to the Canadian Under-20 Women’s National Team soccer camp, which goes through Jan. 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.