NJ basketball league offers opportunities for athletes with autism

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SCOTCH PLAINS -

A Scotch Plains basketball program offers opportunities for young athletes with special needs.

The Wolves Basketball Academy “provides a friendly and fun environment for children with special needs to learn the fundamentals of basketball as well as play on a team.”

Christine Lowrey says that she has noticed a change in personality in her 14-year-old son Declan when he plays.

“What’s great about this league is the fact that it allows him to come out of his shell,” she says. “He has to develop social skills and this is the perfect opportunity.

The league was created by Jeff Mayerson who says that the emphasis is on teaching the players about the game, the rules and the skills – and not stress on winning. He has been coaching basketball for 15 years and started offering clinics for kids with special needs in 2014. He says that it even got the attention of the NBA.

“They said, ‘Would you run a clinic at the NBA All-Star Weekend in New York City?’ I said I absolutely would,” Mayerson says.

The team places athletes with autism on teams with children without special needs so that they can play together. He say that any concerns he had were erased early on in the process.

“One of the really good players threw a no-look pass and it was going right into the face of a special-needs player, and he lifted up his hands, caught the ball, shot it and made it. That’s when I knew this was going to work,” he says.

The players without special needs say that they are also learning more and finding out the kids with autism aren’t so different than they are.

“Whenever I get into a game, I get more focused and it brings more emotions out of me,” says player Brogan Quigley. “It’s the same for them.”

Christine Lowrey says that the Wolves Basketball Academy has given her a look at a promising future for Declan.

"It's an opportunity for me to see him reaching his potential. And for me to realize that he has even more than that to offer,” she says.

A portion of the money made from the league and clinics goes to charities involving autism.

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