Big assist

Palmieri aids Ike from the bench as he battles aplastic anemia

Times Observer photo by Steve Younger Eisenhower senior Johnny Palmieri, third from left, sits on the bench with teammates and head coach Ryan Mangini during a Knights game this season.

The Eisenhower Knights boys basketball team is having one of its best seasons in a long time, but for one senior on the team, it’s been a painful one to watch.

For Johnny Palmieri, that is all he can do is watch. Palmieri, an exceptional 3-point shooter, has, except for a lone start and a quick timeout on Senior Night, yet to play in a game for the 18-4 Knights.

Palmieri has been diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a deficiency of all types of blood cells caused by a failure of bone marrow development. It is a rare condition with only 20,000 diagnosed cases each year. It is something Palmieri has been dealing with since 2012.

“He was 7 when he first got sick and was 8 when he started to receive treatment,” Palmieri’s mother, Maria, said. “He has endured 18 different procedures and takes 10 pills daily for this. He has such a positive attitude and always seems to take whatever comes his way in stride.”

Taking things in stride does not hide the highly competitive side of Palmieri. When he is able, he is constantly working to improve his skill level in whatever sport he is playing. This past fall, Palmieri was a member of Warren Area High School’s first-ever District 10 championship golf team. It is a testament to Palmieri’s drive to compete that he even participated.

Times Observer photo by Steve Younger Eisenhower's Johnny Palmieri takes a shot during a game last season.

“It was a tough week for sure. I went from competing for a D-10 title to needing a blood transfusion in the same week,” he said.

Palmieri’s favorite sport is basketball and he has hopes of playing in college. His head coach admits that Johnny has been a source of inspiration for the Knights this season.

“Johnny has worked tirelessly this past offseason,” Eisenhower head coach Ryan Mangini said. “He was a returning starter for us and he is a deadly 3-point shooter. He stepped up big for us last year during our playoff run, he had six 3-pointers in one playoff game. As great a shooter as Johnny is, his attitude just rubs off on everyone, coaches and players alike. He is just an excellent teammate and is very well-liked. He comes to the practices and the games, and is always encouraging to his teammates.”

His teammates ask him weekly if he’ll be able to play. They hold the same hope as Palmieri does, that his counts will rise enough for him to suit up and join them on the court.

Palmieri’s drive to excel was plain to see during the summer of 2023 as he put up the most shots in Mangini’s offseason summer program, an amazing 33,000-plus, all of them while he was dealing with low platelet counts. To put it in perspective, an average 17-year-old male has a platelet count anywhere between 150,000 and 450,000. Palmieri played last year during basketball season with counts around 65,000.

“I would do it all over again, knowing there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to play,” Palmieri said.

For Palmieri, he knows that time is running out on his chance to play.

“Even with all the wins this year — and there have been a lot — I’d like to think I would be able to add to our success,” he said.

Palmieri also plays baseball for the Knights, and is hopeful his counts will rise enough to make that a reality.

“I am hoping that I’ll be able to play again this season, that my counts will rise enough to get the doctor’s OK,” he said.

“It’s got to be extremely hard for him not to be playing this season, especially with all of the work he put in over the summer,” Mangini said. Whether he gets the clearance from his doctors or not, I have no doubt he’ll overcome this condition and be successful in whatever he does.”

As hard as it is for Palmieri to not be playing, he is fully aware of the seriousness of his situation, as he most likely will have to have a bone marrow transplant following his high school graduation.

“Although I wish things were different, and that I was playing and contributing to our success on the court, I am grateful for the opportunities that I have,” Palmieri said. “I am aware that there is more to life than one winter of basketball.”

But don’t think for a second he isn’t hoping he’ll get the chance to drain a couple of 3s for the Knights yet this season.


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