EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) – Ronny Turiaf, the Los Angeles Lakers second-round draft pick, needs open-heart surgery to correct a life-threatening condition.

An enlarged aortic root was discovered during a physical, Lakers spokesman John Black said. Turiaf, 22, will most likely have the operation in the next six weeks.

The 6-foot-9 power forward averaged 15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 blocked shots as a senior at Gonzaga last season. He was the Lakers’ second pick behind 17-year-old center Andrew Bynum of St. Joseph High in Metuchen, N.J.

Black said previous examinations of Turiaf a couple of years ago and earlier this year at the pre-NBA draft camp turned up an abnormality. But in both instances doctors didn’t think it was serious and cleared him to play. Further examinations by the Lakers’ own physicians turned up the more serious problem.

Black said, and other independent experts confirmed it.

Black said it was too early to determine if the condition would be career-ending.

“We don’t want to speculate on that, but obviously we’re hopeful that if things go well he will be able to (play again),” Black said.

Turiaf thanked teammate Kobe Bryant and fans for their support and vowed to get past the condition so he can help his family.

“Today is just another setback, another hurdle I’ll just have to jump over,” he said.

Black said diagnosing the condition now likely saved Turiaf’s life.

“Had he not had this corrected, my understanding from our doctors is very likely this would have been a fatal condition,” Black said.

The Lakers want to pay for the surgery, if the league approves, Black said.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Turiaf said. “I’m pretty fortunate playing basketball for eight years.”

AP-ES-07-22-05 1601EDT

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