Unified Basketball team begins training with big goals

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Unified basketball season is officially back, and this time the Streaks have the goal to make it to the championship game.

Introduced to the school last year, Unified basketball is a program that was created for special needs students to get involved with athletics. HHS was inspired by the Turner Ashby High School Unified basketball team prior to establishing the program.

Special education teacher Susie Bocock coaches and practices with the students, ensuring that they understand the basketball basics such as dribbling down the court and the terminology of the game. While the rules of basketball have not changed in this case, referees during a Unified basketball game are more lenient on their calls.

“We give [the students] a chance to be able to learn and get involved going up and down the court. It’s just a little exercise for them and the officials [during a game], sometimes they’ll call a walk and sometimes they’ll call a foul. The officials are out there to make it look like a real game,” Bocock said.

Most practices are held for an hour during fourth block. During an actual game, the Unified team will usually have a basketball player from either the girls or boys varsity basketball team to assist and play with them. Last year, senior Christian Velker and junior Jakaya Brandon were some of the players running up and down the court with the special education students. Senior Andre Beeton looks forward to the bonds formed on the court most this season.

“[I’m excited for] hanging out with the team mostly and I like practicing… [I like] the teamwork and just having fun,” Beeton said.

For junior Francisco Celestino-Velasco, it’s the simple interactions with his teammates that make the game fun to play.

“I like to shoot… and to pass the ball to [teammates]” Celestino-Velasco said.

The Streaks will play their first game of the season Wednesday, Sept. 19, at Turner Ashby High School. Most Unified basketball events consist of two games in one night, with schools from around the county competing.  With Harrisonburg against TA as the game opener, the Streaks will keep one thing in mind as they play their first game and throughout the season.

“Our goal is to make the tournament, because we couldn’t make the tournament last year because we were a new team. This year, our kids want to make the tournament and they want to win; that’s their goal. That’s what we’re working hard for,” Bocock said.

While the rules for Unified basketball are adjusted for a more fairly played game, the love for the game the Streaks hold is no different.

“I love being with these kids,” Bocock said. “ It might seem like a challenge, but a lot of them know what they’re doing and they can make the baskets. It’s the greatest thing on Earth.”

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