Unified basketball faces off against Broadway

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The pep band blasts music, the stands erupt and the four Unified basketball teams cheer as the Streaks take the court against the Gobblers of Broadway. Unified basketball is a program that started in the fall of 2017 to give students with disabilities a chance to pursue an athletic career. Coached by Lisa Long, Suzie Bocock and Walt Williamson, the team competes against the local county schools consisting of Broadway, Turner Ashby, Spotswood and East Rockingham. Bocock believes that this experience gives the students exposure to the rest of the school.

“I think it’s great because these kids feel like part of the school now. They aren’t just left out. They are involved in basketball here, but they can also get involved with the other sports with the other kids. A lot of the other kids know them now,” Bocock said.

Senior Andre Beeton enjoys competing against people who are just as excited to be able to play as he is. He hopes to see the program continue to grow as time goes on.

“It is really good. I know everybody likes to play sports and it is fun to play basketball with someone [who has] the same energy, same hype and [is] basically just like you. I think it is a lot of fun and they should do it again next year,” Beeton said.

The community of both the county and city have shown interest in the Unified teams. This big turnout has led to a more competitive approach when on the court. Bocock enjoys this environment and thinks it gives the kids their fifteen seconds of fame.

“It’s fun. The kids love it because [there are a] lot of people and the band. If you have noticed, there is a lot of competition now. We were fouling a lot. The environment is great and the community is getting involved in it. Everyone loves coming to watch it because it is a chance for these kids to shine,” Bocock said.

Bocock’s favorite part is seeing the kids score. Even if they aren’t capable of making a basket, Bocock believes that every athlete has a chance to thrive.

“I like it when the kids make a basket and are successful. Ella [Schminky-Ward] can’t really do it, but she throws a good pass in there. I am really proud of all of our kids,” Bocock said.

With one game left and the possibility of a tournament, Beeton hopes to win the last game. Like every team he has hopes of improvement heading toward the conclusion of the season.

“[So far we’ve] done good this season, but I feel like we can do better,” Beeton said.”I want to see a lot of rebounds, jumping after the ball before the other team takes it, and more dribbling.”

When time to take the court, Beeton blocks out all of his surroundings because he is focused on one thing: the game.

“I feel confident,” Beeton said. “When I have the ball my blood starts pumping and my adrenaline starts kicking and I just focus on me and don’t focus on any music or people.”

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