Coach's Helper Shocks Crowd; Sets Scoring Record In First Four
Minutes Of Play
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 24, 2006
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK--Earlier this month, he was just Jason McElwain, the "high-functioning autistic senior" at Greece Athena High School -- ostracized and made fun of by ignorant students.
But on February 15, he was "J-Mac", a local hero and, soon after, a national celebrity.
Basketball coach Jim Johnson had cut the 5-foot, 6-inch tall teen from the line-up last fall. He asked Jason to stay on as team manager, however, hinting that he might give him a chance to play during a real game at some point during the season.
As the end of the season was nearing, the clock wound down in the game against Spencerport and the Athena Trojans had a comfortable lead, Coach Johnson decided to put the 17-year-old in for the last four minutes and two seconds -- as a way of expressing his thanks to the "special ed kid" for his devotion to the team.
The first time Jason shot, he missed the basket by about six feet.
"I missed. I just air-balled it," Jason said later.
His second attempt was no better.
But his third shot from outside the arc nailed the basket for three points.
That was followed by another . . . and another . . . and another . . .
"I just caught fire. I was hot as a pistol," he told a reporter.
Before the final buzzer, J-Mac had made six three-pointers and one two-point basket for a total of 20 points -- more than any other player -- to help his team beat Spencerport 79-43.
Johnson later discovered it was a new school scoring record.
The crowd went wild as the team carried Jason from the floor on their shoulders, eventually depositing him at the stands, where he signed autographs for several minutes.
Jason's teammates pointed out later that Spencerport did not simply lie down and let him score.
"They may not have been all over him on defense, but for the most part they tried to keep him outside," said junior forward Devin DePoint. "The bottom line is that he still had to put the ball through the basket from beyond the arc."
Since then, Jason's story has been featured on ESPN, CNN, Paul Harvey, Inside Edition, ABC, and CBS, among others. Even Disney has called about plans for a made-for-TV movie.
"That game went beyond what I ever expected," Jason told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. "I felt like I had just won the national championship."
"I would have been happy with one point," he added. "I didn't expect to get hotter than a pistol."
While Jason deals with his celebrity status, Coach Johnson has not given any indication whether he would put his new star in the line-up for future games.
Video story "Autistic basketball player creates mayhem at game" (ESPN via YouTube)
"Four glorious minutes" (Democrat & Chronicle)