Column: Another heart-warming story

Published 10:54 pm Friday, March 3, 2006

By Staff
I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw the story of Jason McElwain. He's the autistic high school basketball manager who blew people away when he scored 20 points in his team's basketball game.
The reason I was so caught off guard was not because of what his coach allowed him to do, but because of the fact that just two weeks ago, I wrote a column about Shay, for those of you who read and remember it.
Shay and Jason were very similar in ways. They each had disabilities, but other people saw past those and actually gave them a chance to shine.
I would like to share the story of Jason, for those of you who have not seen it on the news or the papers.
Finding out he was too small to make the junior varsity basketball team at his high school, Jason, who stands 5-foot-6, decided to stay close to the sport he loved so much and became manager of the varsity squad.
He did everything he was supposed to do and everything he was asked to do - keep stats, hand out water bottles, shoot hoops with a team member during practice, get the team fired up - he did them all.
The 17 year-old senior, who is autistic and usually sits on the bench, was given the opportunity of a lifetime during his final home game of the season. Before the game, Greece Athena High School's head basketball coach told him to suit up - meaning put on a uniform - because he wanted Jason to be able to see what it was like to wear a uniform.
Jason didn't really think he was going to get any playing time, especially since Athena was battling for a division title. But as the game went on, his team had such a lead, that coach thought it was time for him to enter.
With four minutes left to play, the ball was passed to Jason. He attempted a 3-pointer, but it was way off.
His next attempt was a lay-up, which he also missed, but the fans and teammates didn't seem to mind. They just wanted Jason to make one basket.
Finally, that moment happened. Jason bombed a 3-pointer, all net. The crowd went wild, but Jason wasn't done yet. He went on to make five more three-pointers. He could have made seven, but his foot was on the line for the last one and it was counted as two points. Jason scored 20 points that night as he was lifted to the shoulders of his players and posed for autographs and pictures after the game.
Greece Athena went on to win the game 79-43.
Jason didn't begin speaking until he was 5 years-old. He lacked social skills, but things became easier for him as he got older. He had many friends and always has had a love for the game of basketball.
After high school, he plans to attend Monroe Community College to study business management.
Since this story has made the news, Jason has been contacted by a number of Hollywood directors about possibly doing a movie on his story. In fact, it was reported on the news last night that his parents have received inquiries from about 25 production companies ranging from The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. to independent documentary filmmakers.
This is another heart-warming story that puts a smile on everyone's face when they hear about it. Maybe the world is becoming a better place afterall!
A good manager is the core of any sports team. They keep track of things, make sure the athletes are in line and have a knack for making ballplayers think they are better then they think they are.
– Reggie Jackson