March 8, 2012 in City

Basketball tourney for athletes about having fun

By The Spokesman-Review
Video: Special Needs Basketball Tournament
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

“Go Tigers!” says a team of basketball players from Lewis and Clark High School as they take the court against Rogers High School during the Spokane Public Schools basketball tournament for developmentally impaired students Wednesday at Rogers.
(Full-size photo)

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Shadle Park student Chris Jameson has been playing basketball for eight years.

“I have a passion for it,” the 16-year-old said. “And I’m pretty good at it. They call me 3-pointer man.”

Jameson sported his green and gold as he played Wednesday in the 20th annual basketball tournament for the developmentally impaired along with other teams representing all of Spokane Public Schools’ high schools. The event caps the athletes’ basketball season.

The coaches and players use a “this is for fun” format, said Kim Hatch, a Shadle Park High School special education teacher. Full-court press is not allowed, and the players must pass the ball three times before shooting a basket.

On Wednesday, however, excitement sometimes got in the way of remembering the rules.

“Trying not to foul is the hardest thing,” Jameson said.

The games are played in two 10-minute halves. The scores are low, but just about all the players are given a chance to score.

“We make accommodations for all kids, but what’s really cool is all the other kids do, too,” said Marcus Potts, who coaches the Rogers High School team. “You don’t even have to tell them to; it’s just innate.”

The students’ disabilities range from autism to Down syndrome.

Shadle Park student Michael Fettig was giddy about the games.

“I love hoops. Everybody’s here, and I just like shooting hoops,” said Fettig, who describes himself as 17, good looking and blind. “I’m the most accurate shot in the world.”

Fettig, who added his best move on the court is jogging, has been a student in the district since he was 4 years old.

“I think they really look forward to being able to do something that’s outside of their schedules,” said Potts, who has coached Rogers’ team for two years. “For some of them, it’s just social. Some of them, it’s being part of a team, and some, they really want to win.”

Parent Vicki Rabb said the program has made all the difference for her son, Julien Rabb, a senior.

“I think this is a wonderful thing for them,” Rabb said. “My son is autistic. He’s a computer wiz. But he has no social life. This gives him a way to be with them. It’s helped him learn how to socialize.”

The players ran the court, trying to get open for the ball and watching for opportunities to snag a rebound.

Tiffany Hotchkiss, Rogers’ team captain, prepped the players for Wednesday’s game.

“We talk about what we are going to do, and that pumps us up,” the 18-year-old said. The high school senior likes the tournament because “we get to play with different teams who have disabilities like us.”

She added, “We like to play for fun.”

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