Daily Archive for Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

GO PORTIA!!!


portia will have Jamaica and the world’s attention as no other. much depends on what she does with it.

GO KID!!! – thanks Jake


Professor Nesson,
dont know if you saw this follow-up to the news story re: the autistic
basketball star, but if not, I thought you’d be interested.

-Jake Mermelstein

Hollywood Calls Autistic Basketball Star
By BEN DOBBIN, Associated Press WriterTue Feb 28, 4:34 PM ET

Alone in the gym after practice, Jason McElwain went through his elaborate
pregame ritual.

The 17-year-old senior, manager of the Greece Athena High School basketball
team, drained a 3-pointer, a double-pump layup and a free throw, kissed the
back of his ring finger at center court and sped off to the dressing room to
exhort and amuse his teammates.

“You’ve gotta give it everything you got!” McElwain sang in rap verse. “The
winner goes home all happy/The loser goes home and says/`Mommy we lost the
game, wah wah wah!'”

McElwain, who is autistic, was back in his role as an all-around motivator on
the eve of a sectional semifinal game Tuesday night — handing out water
bottles, dispensing tips, helping run drills. Two weeks earlier, he suited up
for a game and delivered a jaw-dropping performance.

His play drew national attention, and a flood of calls from Hollywood. His
parents have received inquiries from about 25 production companies ranging from
The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. to independent documentary filmmakers.

“I don’t know what I’m walking into,” McElwain said.

In his team’s final home game of the season, McElwain entered with four minutes
to go. It was his first and only appearance for the Athena varsity team in this
Rochester suburb. The 5-foot-6 manager hit six 3-point shots and a 2-pointer and
was carried off the court on his teammates’ shoulders.

His triumph was captured on a student video that made the rounds of the
television networks. The school was besieged with calls and e-mails from
parents of children who have autism, a little-understood developmental
disorder.

“We have an obligation as a society to find a way to include people with
different abilities,” said the school’s athletic director, Randolph Hutto,
whose 12-year-old son, Joshua, is autistic. “This, hopefully, will help open
doors for some people, or open some eyes.”

McElwain, who didn’t begin talking until he was 5, still lacks social skills but
has learned to cope well in his teens, said his special-education teacher, Diane
Maddock.

“He might talk a little loud, laugh a little too long or not be able the read
the body language or even the tone of voice of a person, but it’s not a big
difficulty,” Maddock said. “If you call him on it, he will acknowledge it, say
‘OK, you’re right, I shouldn’t have said that or laughed when I laughed.'”

“This couldn’t happen to a nicer kid,” she added.

Considered too small to make the junior varsity, McElwain signed on as manager,
then took up the same role with the varsity to stay near the sport he loves.
Amazed at his dedication, coach Jim Johnson had him suit up for the home
finale. There was no guarantee he would play — Athena was battling for a
division title — but he got in when the Trojans opened a large lead.

“It was like a big old bucket and I was just hitting them like they were free
throws,” McElwain said. “I just felt relaxed.”

The coach couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“He’s been my right-hand man, he’s there every day and just getting him the
opportunity to suit up was emotional enough for me,” he said. “For him to come
in and seize the moment like he did was certainly more than I ever expected. I
was an emotional wreck.”

Because he played in just one regular-season game, McElwain was ineligible for
sectional play. But he’s not bothered.

“I just want to win as a team, not individually,” he said.

What’s more, he prides himself on having a lot of friends.

“I’m not really that different,” he said. “I don’t really care about this
autistic situation, really. It’s just the way I am. The advice I’d give to
autistic people is just keep working, just keep dreaming, you’ll get your
chance and you’ll do it.”