The first time Jordan Angus scored in a basketball game there wasn’t a dry eye in the gym.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Jordan Angus takes a shot in a recent Moose Jaw Minor Basketball Association game.
When he scored Saturday it was greeted with a big cheer and smiles from the bleachers and then the game carried on.
The fact that Angus is scoring baskets every weekend in Moose Jaw Minor Basketball Association play is a big deal. The fact that it is becoming normal may be an even bigger deal.
Jordan has Down syndrome and yet he is out there every game with his Lakers teammates getting as much time on the floor as they do.
“He’s great,” said Jordan’s coach Jana Polupski. “He came with very few skills and really our goal is to get him to play a little bit of defence and to grow his self-confidence. We always try to make sure he gets a basket every game.”
So far he has.
After he scored Saturday he offered what is becoming his trademark celebration: a jump of joy, followed by a flexing of his muscles. Then the 13-year-old hustled back on defence with smile that lit up the Riverview gym.
“I don’t know how the boys work it. It’s not a set up thing, it’s more that all of a sudden the boys decide it’s Jordan’s turn,” said Jordan’s mother Tricia Broomfield. “I really like that.
“He loves basketball. He thinks he’s quite the basketball star and it gets him off the couch.”
Jordan, whose middle name is Michael, seems to have found a home in the MJMBA’s senior boys league which features players who are in Grades 7-9.
He said playing the game was fun and when asked if scoring baskets was fun, he replied: “oh yeah” and broke into a big smile.
“The boys are so accepting of everything he does,” said Polupski. “The guys have been awesome right from the get-go. We’ve had no issues at all.
“It’s good for the kids. It makes every kid that plays with him a better kid and it makes me a better person to be able to work with him — just through patience and understanding.”
As great as Jordan’s first basket was, Broomfield is just as happy to see him take part every week. While there have been a number of inspirational stories about people with disabilities achieving things athletically — in 2006 Jason McElwain, who has autism, won the ESPY Award for the Best Moment in Sports — she said the sense of belonging that Jordan is getting is more than she ever dreamed of and far more important than the baskets he makes.
“It’s a phenomenal program,” Broomfield said of the MJMBA. “You hear all these inspirational stories about other kids with disabilities and it’s their senior year and they’re the water boy and there’s that one play ... These guys do something beyond that. They make every Saturday and every Wednesday phenomenal for Jordan. And he looks forward to it.”
Jordan had tried a few individual sports, but when his team of physical and occupational therapists at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre noted that he was taking to basketball at his biannual assessment, she decided to see if it might be a good fit for him.
“We have tried several sports and it was always more segregated sports,” said Broomfield. “If he shows an interest in something other than computers I’m all for it. He has always shown an interest in basketball when he goes for assessments at Wascana. His teachers have always told me how well he did at basketball in school, so we thought we would give it a try.”
Barry Seaborn, president of the Moose Jaw Minor Basketball Association, was open to the idea and is elated with how it has turned out so far.
“Our only concern was with him getting hurt,” said Seaborn. “At the senior boys level, the game is pretty fast and it can get rough at times. Other than that we were all for it.
“The first time he got a basket there wasn’t a dry eye in the gym. There were tears of joy from everyone.”
When Polupski and her co-coach Cory Johnson saw Jordan at the skills evaluation before they selected their team they knew they wanted him to be part of their team.
Broomfield wasn’t sure if playing in the league was too far beyond his skill level, but playing with the Lakers has been a perfect fit.
“I was apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how it would go,” said Broomfield. “At the first basketball practice and tryouts his skill level was way below everyone else. I even suggested to the coaches after the first practice: ‘do we maybe want to modify and put him in a beginner group?’ They said ‘no, we’ve got it figured out.’ And they do. Every game we see improvement with him. He couldn’t dribble at all to now he can somewhat.”
Jordan does play with some modified rules. If he misses after he shoots, he usually gets another chance off of the rebound. He gets the same kind of leeway on travelling calls as most NBA superstars, but on the rare occasion he did dribble to get closer to shoot Saturday he did so legally. His opponents are also respectful about letting him get his shot off.
“All of the kids have stepped up and helped him along. It’s been awesome,” said Seaborn. “The kids get it. They know he’s a part of their team and that’s how they treat him. The other teams have been great too. They’ve shown real sportsmanship — they step back and give him his chance.
“This league is a unique league I think. I’m proud of all of the kids in this league. It’s not all about winning and I don’t think every league would be like that.”
Seaborn praised Jordan’s coaches for doing such a great job with him and the rest of the team. Polupski noted that their goal as coaches it to see each of their players improve. Jordan is no different in that regard.
“We’re looking to develop those basic skills so they can be more successful with their elementary or high school teams. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, we all have the same pizza party at the end of the year,” said Polupski.
Jordan has joined his elementary school team at Sacred Heart, where he is a Grade 7 student.
“He thinks he’s a rock star now,” Broomfield said as she smiled at her son. “He’s a little more out-going now because of it. And he has more of a sense of pride and being part of a team.”