Van Hoosen student wins Globetrotter award after ‘SportsCenter’ triumph

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 25, 2013

 Buckets Blakes presents Owen Groesser with a Globetrotter award.

Buckets Blakes presents Owen Groesser with a Globetrotter award.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

As the manager of the seventh-grade basketball team at Van Hoosen Middle School, 13-year-old Owen Groesser had no idea his shooting skills would be broadcast on TV for the entire nation to see.

During Van Hoosen’s final home basketball game of the season Jan. 23, Groesser — an eighth-grader with Down syndrome — was given the chance to suit up for the first time. He took to the court during the first half with two minutes to go and surprised everyone during a play designed specifically for him, fittingly called “The Owen.”

Jeff Howell, basketball coach for the seventh grade team, said the teen had two options to score during his play. He could either shoot a three-pointer or drive for a layup.

With just two minutes left in the first half, Groesser sank not one, but two three-pointers, surprising many in the crowd.

“Owen very seldom selects the layup. When we put him in the game, he went in there and drilled the shot. It was one of the most remarkable things you’ll ever see. The outpouring of love by the student body, the other team, coaches, administration — they were running through the bleachers like they were kids. It was such a great moment for Owen and all of Van Hoosen,” Howell said.

After the game — which the team won 35-26 against Troy’s Boulan Park — Groesser’s friends and teammates launched a Twitter campaign called #GetOwenOnSportsCenter, which ended up landing the teen on “SportsCenter’s” top 10 plays that night and secured him an interview on “SportsCenter” with his dad, Chris, the following day.

Thursday night, Owen Groesser scored four more points during the last 90 seconds of an away game against Reuther Middle School, which the team won 30-14.

“We had a student section all come to the game and they were all fired up and chanting his name. After the game they rushed the floor and they even carried Owen up on their shoulders. It was a very touching moment,” Howell said.

On Friday, Groesser ran across the basketball court and broke through a Van Hoosen Vikings sign in front of more than 800 students chanting his name during a special assembly. Soon after, Buckets Blakes from the Harlem Globetrotters presented Groesser with the team’s Junior Phenom Award, which celebrates individuals who have demonstrated “Globetrotter Spirit,” which includes helping others, demonstrating outstanding teamwork and sportsmanship, and being a positive role model.

During the assembly, Groesser credited his dad, who has been playing basketball with him in the driveway of their home for years, for his basketball skills. But he wasn’t shy about offering his opinion on who would win in a game of one-on-one.

“Me,” Groesser said, noting that he would love to become an NBA player in the future.

While the overall experience means a lot to Groesser, his father hopes his fellow students will take away more than his son does.

“I hope that as they go through their lives, they will embrace people with special needs and help build their character and help them to be better people and citizens going forward,” Chris Groesser said.