Special Olympics basketball team in midst of season


Receiving the basketball from a teammate, Eric Jackson dribbled a couple of times before eying the hoop.

He then released the ball with his right hand, and it swished through the net.

“Yahoo!” Jackson exclaimed as he smiled at his teammates and coach.

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By the end of the three-on-three game, the Jackson County Twisters weren’t victorious.

In that moment, though, it didn’t matter. No one was going to take away the happiness Jackson had for making that basket.

“That’s a tradition my father started,” he said of his reaction after the shot.

Having an opportunity to be a part of the Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County basketball team means a lot to Jackson.

“This is like living the dream because when I was 7 years old, all I dreamed about was being a professional basketball player,” he said. “I get out there and have a good time.”

Saturday’s tournament at the Hauser Fieldhouse in Hope was the second one for the team this season. The Twisters is a coed team, while the Jackson County Hurricanes is a three-on-three women’s team, and the Jackson County Tornadoes play five-on-five.

None of the teams returned home with wins, but all of the players still had a good time being on the court.

Jennifer Pearson, who plays for the Hurricanes and Twisters, made two baskets in each of the two games she played.

After each basket, she said it made her feel great because all of the shooting she had done in practice paid off.

“It’s fun, and I love being with my friends,” Pearson said. “I just love basketball. I will just keep on moving and keep on shooting.”

Teammate Alysha Sandlin made a couple of baskets. After banking in a 3-pointer, she threw her hands up and yelled, “Yeah!”

“I was happy,” she said with a big smile.

Shooting from beyond the arc is Sandlin’s favorite part of the game, and she said she likes being around her teammates.

“They were awesome,” she said.

The Tornadoes opened the season in the Seymour Noon Lions Club Special Olympics Basketball Tournament on Jan. 5 at Seymour Middle School with a victory, but they haven’t recorded a win since then.

They, however, have been giving a great effort on the court.

“I love coming out here and playing with the players and team members and supporting Special Olympics players, the coaches,” Montana Casto said. “Win or lose, it doesn’t matter, but just have fun and just do what you have to do.”

Anyone who watches Special Olympics basketball games typically will notice good sportsmanship on the court, whether it be helping someone up off of the court or high-fiving a player from either team after they make a basket.

“I think it’s important to get along with other players and just have fun, do your best,” Casto said. “The only thing that counts the most is to make friends and make the other players and audience just have a good time. It makes me feel good and happy to have fun and help team members out like a good role model.”

James Knight said this is his first time playing Special Olympics basketball, and it didn’t take long for him to notice the good sportsmanship.

“Everybody is trying their best,” he said. “Everybody gets along and plays together.”

Teammate Thomas Emly said it brings him happiness to see everyone giving their all on the court.

“I just like to see teammates get out and do their best,” he said. “I like playing with all of the athletes. It’s enjoyable.”

After playing two games Saturday, it was easy to see Rob Smith had a good time.

“I loved it,” he said with a big smile. “I like playing basketball. I like making baskets.”

Smith and his teammates are ready to get back on the court Sunday for a game in Salem, and then the Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Twisters will play in a tournament Feb. 9 in Bedford.

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