A basketball game between Fleetwood and Berks Catholic turned into a special night for the players, coaches, and fans. Fleetwood student Ben Schucker, who has Down Syndrome, has been the Fleetwood boy's basketball manager for 3 years. Recently, he finally got to see some action in a game against Berks Catholic. Both coaches agreed to have Ben play in the game and score a basket for Fleetwood. Another student, senior John Paulik from Berks Catholic who is out for the season after ACL surgery, also was finally able to see some action and score a basket. Towards the end of the game, Ben was put back in the game. Competely unplanned, #2 Julian Smith of Berks Catholic dribbled into Ben, allowing Ben to steal and once again have the chance to score a basket for the Tigers.
To see Ben "steal" the ball, skip to 1:55 on the video!
From Ben's Mom, Susan: Ben was ecstatic about playing on Friday night. It was a great experience for him that couldn't have happened without the support of his coaches and his teammates. They have all welcomed him as part of the team over the last few years. It was a great experience for him to be part of a team, part of the basketball family, and part of his school community. Friday night could not have happened without the cooperation of the BC team. We were happy that they agreed with Ben playing in the game, but we were touched at how the team, the coaches and even the fans responded. And the fact that Julian (#2) turned over the ball to Ben without it being planned or prompted was even more touching. We were impressed with how real he made the play look and how gracious he was about it.Needless to say, it was a very touching and inspiring night for all of us. There were a lot of smiles and teary eyes that night, not just for Ben but also for the kindness, support and acceptance from his teammates, his coaches, BC and Julian.
From Fleetwood Coach Terry Sitler: At the end of last season Ben kept asking when he is going to get to play in a game. At practices throughout the season our players would take time to work with Ben on his lay-ups to prepare him for the big game. Ben was extremely excited on game day and joined the players in all of the pregame rituals (senior night recognition, pre-game warm-ups and of course the introduction of the starters). During the practice before the game we practiced the opening tip for Ben several times so he was prepared. It worked great as he scored his first two points in the game. At the end of every senior night game I make sure the seniors are on the floor at the end and take them out one at a time for one last recognition with a few seconds left. After getting all of the seniors out there was about 40 seconds left and I decided to put Ben back into the game (unplanned with Berks Catholic). As you can see by the video Berks Catholic were gracious opponents and allowed Ben to steal the ball and score the last basket of the game. Great sportsmanship on everyone's behalf, especially #2 for turning over the ball.
From Berks Catholic Athletic Director Bill Hess talking about #2 Julian Smith: Julian has been such a great part of our team and school community. The Fleetwood game is just one example of how our coaches and athletes understand the importance of being respectful to the game and respectful to everyone involved. You see, we have a responsibility every time we step on the floor. A responsibility to everyone. It's not just about us. It's not just about Berks Catholic. Every time you play a game, you have a responsibility to the officials, your opponent, their players, coaches, fans and school. That night we had a responsibility to Ben Schucker, his parents and every single fan in that gym. Julian took it a step further. The beginning of the game was staged to create a feel good moment for a young man. What Julian did at the end of the game, was all about one athlete raising up another. I wasn't surprised at what happened. We have athletes and coaches all over Berks County who care about each other. We get too caught up in the score instead of getting caught up in what's important. Every game, every day, our responsibility is to take care of each other. Whether someone entered the gym that night as a Tiger or a Saint, they all came out a winner. They all had that feel good moment with Ben (and Julian). No one remembers the score that night. Everyone will remember the night that Ben Schucker scored the best 4 points of the season.