When Jason McElwain entered the game with 4 minutes to play, the fans in attendance showered him with applause. The 17-year-old with autism entered his first varsity game as a player after serving as a team manager for the year.
Team manager scores 20 points in 4 minutes
Jason gave his fans and teammates lots more to cheer about as he proceeded to hit six 3-pointers and a bucket underneath for a total of 20 points. It brought Jason, his team, and coach national fame in 2006.
Jason McElwain: Not all superheroes wear capes
Jim Johnson, the basketball coach for Greece-Athena High School, had a debt to pay. You see, 17-year-old Jason McElwain had been serving as the student manager for his basketball team, and this was his last home game.
Being a student manager requires a fair amount of work – keeping statistics, gathering towels, running the clock, handing out water bottles, and more – so Johnson wanted to reward McElwain by letting him play in the last game.
There were just four minutes to play, and Johnson’s team had the game well in hand. Jason got the nod to enter the game.
Now, Jason isn’t your typical high schooler or basketball player. Since the age of two years old, he has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Now, in high school, Jason stood 5’6″ tall. All the students called him “J-Mac.”
J-Mac’s story was beginning.
“I just caught fire”
“I just caught fire. I was hot as a pistol,” said J-Mac.
While he missed his first two shots, his long three-pointers connected. Some 900 spectators went wild as Jason entered “the zone” – where anything he shot up fell through the nets. His third shot went through the hoop. And then another, and again, and again. When it was over, Greece-Athena had beat local rival Spencerport by a score of 79-43.
Although coach Johnson never asked his teammates to pass the ball to Jason, he was the only player on his team to shoot the last four minutes.
McElwain alone accounted for 20 of the points. He made six long-range three-point shots (a school record) and a two-pointer from closer in. It was pure magic. As he was carried off the court by his teammates, there wear tears of joy in spectators’ eyes, cheering and shouting.
Jason McElwain Video — 20 points in Four Minutes
Jason travels the country fundraising to help treat autism. J-Mac is addressing an ongoing need. His mother, Debbie, knows that the work can be tiring but knows it goes for a great cause.
“We didn’t ask for any of this,” she said. “We were trying to be good parents and do what’s best for all of our children. His brother got him into basketball, and years later, something very special happened because of it. If other parents like us can find some hope from this, then we want to be there for them.”
10 Years After Video — Catching Up with Jason McElwain
Jason, now 32 years old, works at a bakery at a local grocery store in Rochester. In addition to public speaking, he also serves as a volunteer coach for his high school basketball team. He has run five marathons and qualified for two Boston Marathons. And, he’s grown to be 5’11” tall.
Jason’s book, The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, And Growing Up Autistic, is available in paperback.
He’s still as hot as a pistol.
By Mike O’Halloran
Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories. This story played a significant role in the launch of this website.
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