Mead girls basketball manager Aaliyah Johnson, 18, gets her first chance to play in a game Thursday against Gonzaga Prep. Johnson has transverse myelitis and can’t use her right arm. She played Spokane AAU basketball until the eighth grade when she got sick. Assistant coach Fred Redmon said she would have been ready to play varsity her freshman year had it not been for her illness, so the coaching staff encouraged her to serve as the team manager. To celebrate the work she had done with the team over her four years in high school, Coach Quantae Anderson asked if she would be willing to see what it’s like to play in a big game during Senior Night. Johnson checked with her doctors and participated in 12 practices—she needed 10 to become eligible to play.
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Normally right handed, Aaliyah Johnson hoists a free throw with her left hand during practice.