Taking their shot


During Saturday’s Seymour Noon Lions Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, there were some scenes basketball fans are accustomed to seeing.

A coach called a timeout to encourage his players to get their hands up on defense and fight for rebounds. He later took a timeout to set up a play.

One of the players expressed frustration after missing a shot, but he hustled down the floor to play defense and later made a strong post move and got to the foul line.

Another player converted a 3-point play and later stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for a layup. He received high-fives from his teammates both times.

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But there also were scenes people aren’t used to seeing on the court.

A player from the opposing team rebounded the ball and gave it back for the shooter to try again. Players also high-fived or said “good shot” when their opponent made a basket.

In this tournament, it’s not about who wins. It’s about having fun.

That’s what makes the tournament — in its 33rd year — special.

“I think it’s good that they get out there and do their best. That’s all I ask of them, to do their best,” said Bobby Hanner, coach of the Jackson County Tornadoes. “That’s all I tell them is to get out and have fun, win or lose. We’re just here to have fun. I hope they learn how to be good on the court as they would off the court.”

The Tornadoes were one of 17 southern Indiana teams in this year’s tournament, played in the gymnasiums at Seymour Middle School. There also was a special skills contest for those unable to participate in competitive basketball levels.

Hayle Wills was the only girl on the six-member Tornadoes team. It was the 16-year-old’s third year playing in the tournament.

She said she had a good time playing with her 18-year-old twin brothers, Taylor and Tyler Wills, and friend, Jonathan Boyd.

“My dad did it for a long time, and now, he doesn’t do it, but (Boyd) plays now,” Hayle Wills said.

She liked helping Boyd dribble down the court toward the basket and shoot.

“It feels good. I’m glad to help him. I have fun helping him out,” she said. “Seeing him make shots, I feel like I accomplished something.”

Taylor and Tyler Wills, who both turned 18 Friday, said they have been longtime tournament participants.

“Back when I was a little kid, my dad asked me if I wanted to play, and I tried it, and ever since I tried, I’ve been playing,” Taylor said.

“My mom and dad, they played in Special Olympics, so it’s kind of an honor to keep doing it and playing with people like Jonathan and helping them out,” Tyler said.

Taylor Wills said he used to play football at school and competed in track and field through Special Olympics, but he now focuses solely on basketball.

“Being as big as I am, 240 pounds, 6-1, I used to play football all the time,” he said. “I played football back in fifth grade for Brown Elementary, and then I picked up a basketball, and I’ve been playing it since. I’m built for football, but I’ve been playing basketball ever since I picked one up.”

Taylor Wills said he likes doing everything on the basketball court.

“Shooting, I’m good at my midrange,” he said. “I’m good at driving, good for boards. My height is what’s good for boards. And I play some good defense. I’m pretty much an all-around player. I don’t shoot 3’s much, but I do it every now and then when I’m open.”

For Tyler Wills, shooting 3’s is his forte.

“That’s really what I usually like to do,” he said. “But if I need to take it in, I’ll take it in.”

The Wills siblings agreed that playing with family and friends is the best part of the tournament. Their 20-year-old brother, William, also used to participate.

“We’ve got a good friendship going on,” Taylor Wills said. “It has always been the same coaches and same people playing, and we’ve all been together as a team for a good while. It does have a pretty good effect on our team with us all being friends and being confident with each other. It helps a lot for the team.”

Tyler Wills said he has improved over the years.

“It’s really just to play and have fun, but it does help you get better, too,” he said. “I’ve played ball all my life. I play ball because I like to help other people out, and it’s really fun.”

While it’s fun to win, that’s not what it’s all about, Taylor Wills said.

“I look for a win, but some games, you can’t expect to win,” he said minutes after losing 34-28 to the Clark/Floyd County All-Stars. “Some teams play better at times that you don’t play as good. People have their good games, and people have their bad games. You can’t win them all.”

Other members of the Jackson County Tornadoes are Elliott Daniels and Matt Kedrowitz.

Daniels, 31, said this was his third year playing in the tournament. He used to work with Ron Lowe, who helps coordinate Jackson County Special Olympics, and was encouraged to play.

“I wanted to volunteer with it, but he talked me into playing and participating, and I’ve had a whole bunch of fun ever since,” Daniels said. “I’ve met a lot of new friends and new people along the way not only from this county but from other counties.”

Daniels said he likes interacting with his teammates and coaches.

“It makes me feel good when other people make baskets and when I make baskets,” he said. “It just makes me feel good when we win. Even if we don’t win, I still have fun all the time, win or lose. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Hanner was assisted by Kedrowitz’s father, Paul, the county’s Special Olympics coordinator. Hanner said he played in the tournament for 17 years before coaching the past three years.

“It’s really different,” Hanner said with a smile. “You’re not out there playing. You’re actually coaching them and telling them what to do. I learned to see everything on the floor.”

Hanner said his goal is for the players to give their best effort.

“I try the fundamentals and try to make sure they make good passes and make sure they play good defense,” he said. “I’m all about offense and defense.”

The tournament is a good time for everyone involved, he said.

“I think a lot of the tournament,” he said. “I hope they keep having it every year because it’s a really great tournament.”

Paul Kedrowitz, who has been involved nearly every year of the tournament, agreed.

“It’s a fun day for everybody,” he said.

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For information about Special Olympics in Indiana, visit soindiana.org.


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