Teen with Down syndrome hits 3-point shots
UNDATED (NBC) -- The first shot 13-year-old Owen Groesser ever took in an organized basketball game came on Wednesday, and it landed him on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays’’ the same night.
All season long, Owen, who was born with Down syndrome, had dutifully performed his job as team manager without missing a game or a practice for the Van Hoosen Middle School basketball team in Rochester Hills, Mich., and his coach wanted to reward him.
When the eighth-grader finally got his chance to shine in a game on Wednesday, the crowd went delirious after he swished a 3-pointer on his first attempt. It inspired his excited classmates to make a push on Twitter to get Owen national attention for the shot, and the online campaign resulted in video of his performance making it to SportsCenter hours later.
“The best part about this story is that everybody else wins,’’ Owen’s father, Chris Groesser, told TODAY.com. “It was awesome. It’s still so surreal.’’
A month before the team’s last regular-season home game, head coach Jeff Howell had planned on putting Owen in the game to reward him for all his hard work as manager, which entailed sweeping the gym floor and taking care of the basketballs. Word had spread among the school that the popular teen would get a chance to play, resulting in a packed house.
Owen checked into the game with two minutes left in the first half to the chants of his classmates, and then the team ran “The Owen,’’ a special play that Howell had designed to get him the ball. He took one dribble and launched a 3-pointer, splashing it through the net as the crowd erupted and his teammates jumped up off the bench and mobbed him. He missed his next two shots before burying another 3-pointer on his way to finishing with six points in a 35-26 win over Boulan Park Middle School.
“I have to be honest, my eyes welled up pretty good when he hit that first shot,’’ Howell told TODAY.com. “I tried to be the cool guy and hold it back like a coach should, but it was tough. The place erupted, and I was watching the principal and vice principal just fist-pumping and high-fiving people in the stands.’’
“I wasn’t surprised that he made the shot because we play at home in the driveway and he shoots 3-pointers a lot,’’ Chris Groesser said. “It was just very cool that he got a chance.’’
After Owen’s big moment, his classmates started the hashtag “#GetOwenOnSportsCenter” on Twitter to try to get it to be a "trending" topic, and it worked. That same night, the highlight of Owen’s shot was featured as No. 10 on the show's “Top Plays” segment.