The sights and sounds of high school basketball have returned to Western New York.
"Some of the students have never been a part of the something like this in their lives," Starpoint Coach Kathie Kreppenneck said.
Unified Basketball, in conjunction with Special Olympics New York, is a new athletics program providing varsity sports opportunities to intellectually disabled students. This year Akron, Eden, Lockport, Newfane, Starpoint and Frontier have joined.
Team rosters are a mix of athletes with intellectual disabilities and general education students.
"Some of these students and parents have never even attended an event in school. Watching some of these students faces and having them included in this is amazing," Kreppenneck added.
Through the program, Linda and Bud Ess have seen their grandson, Cody Schultz, transform as a member of the Starpoint basketball team.
"It's very fun. Very fun," Cody said. "You can talk to the people cheer them on. It's very fun."
"He wants to be a part of the team. His self-esteem has raised tremendously," his grandmother Linda said. "He makes us practice with him at home,"
What's it like to have his grandparents watch him play?
"I can't explain it," Cody said with a smile on his face.
"We've been looking for a sport to get him involved in and this is one he really likes. He seems to be doing well in it as well," his grandfather, Bud added.
For Matthew Murray's mom she says it means the world to see her son wear a jersey, represent the school and community.
"When he was born, he had a lot of physical limitations. He walked late, he talked late," Corrie said. "He was in the Special Ed program since he started school and to see him be a part of a program that all the regular kids have been a part of."
"This is so awesome. I'm so glad Newfane instituted it. I couldn't be prouder of my son and the whole team," she added.
***Unified Basketball Schedule***
All games start at 5 p.m. unless specified below
MONDAY, MAY 9TH, 2016
NEWFANE @ STARPOINT
AKRON @ FRONTIER
LOCKPORT @ EDEN
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11TH, 2016
LOCKPORT @ NEWFANE (4:30)
THURSDAY, MAY 12TH, 2016
EDEN @ AKRON (4:30)
FRONTIER @ STARPOINT (6:00)
MONDAY, MAY 16TH, 2016
LOCKPORT @ AKRON (4:30)
NEWFANE @ FRONTIER
STARPOINT @ EDEN
THURSDAY, MAY 19TH, 2016
STARPOINT @ LOCKPORT
EDEN @ FRONTIER
AKRON @ NEWFANE (4:30)
MONDAY, MAY 23RD, 2016
FRONTIER @ LOCKPORT
STARPOINT @ AKRON (4:30)
EDEN @ NEWFANE (4:30)
THURSDAY, MAY 26TH, 2016
FRONTIER @ EDEN
STARPOINT @ NEWFANE (4:30)
AKRON @ LOCKPORT
THURSDAY, JUNE 2ND, 2016
SKILL EVENT / FINAL TOURNAMENT @ LOCKPORT HS
Two games @ 4:30
Skills Event with Awards
Final game @ 6:45
Final Awards to follow