Monday, January 11, 2016

14-year-old basketball team manager on the autism spectrum sinks shot

William Lipka is the 14-year-old manager of the basketball team at Elm Place Middle School in Highland Park, Illinois.  Like his twin brother Eamon, he is on the autism spectrum.  But after a little help from his coaches and teammates a few weeks ago, he scored some memorable points in a basketball game—one that he'd only been informed he would play in a few hours previously.

Some years before, assistant basketball coach Trevor Kahn and fellow coach John Whitehead had both discussed getting Lipka involved in a school activity.  Lipka already loved basketball, so they made him the manager for the seventh and eighth grade teams.

As manager, his duties include filling basketballs with air and cleaning up the court, but he also acts almost like another coach himself.  Kahn notes that Lipka will help repeat the coach's advice to the team during practice, and he takes his role very seriously.  But he never got to actually play in a game himself.  At least, not until last December.

That's when the two coaches made the short-notice decision to put Lipka in a game, and it was in this game that Lipka made his momentous goal.  It didn't happen immediately; about seven previous chances to get a shot didn't go quite as well.  But then Lipka hit a 10 foot baseline jumper.  The crowd went wild, erupting into cheers.  Watch Lipka make the shot and see the reaction below:

He had some help from his teammates, too; they willingly gave up scoring opportunities and playing time to give Lipka an experience they knew he might never get the chance to have again.  Coach John Whitehead commended his players for showing class, sportsmanship, and camaraderie, and said that they made him proud to be a coach.

As for Lipka, when asked what it feels like when he's holding the ball, he had one simple response: he says it feels like they're going to win.

You can learn more about William Lipka from ABC 7, from, and from USA Today.

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