Friday, January 25, 2013

Rochester Eighth Grader with Downs Makes Sportcenter

     Any old eighth grader making a basket would not end up on any newscast let alone ESPN's Sport Center. But when you happen to have Downs Syndrome and make two triples in a game and have a play drawn up for you, it becomes must see tv. Owen Groesser of Van Hoosen Middle School is getting his 15 minutes of fame and is soaking up the attention while it lasts.


Rochester Hills eighth-grader with Down syndrome shoots two three-pointers in basketball game WITH VIDEO

Rochester Hills eighth-grader Owen Groesser always knew he had what it takes to be a superstar — and that’s what he has become.

Owen, who has Down’s Syndrome, became famous overnight after making two three-point shots in the final basketball game for his middle school basketball team, the Van Hoosen Vikings.

In less than 24 hours, the story has gained attention from everyone including local media, ESPN and Good Morning America.

His parents, Kari and Chris, never expected the sudden fame, but neither of them were surprised that 13-year-old Owen made the shots.

“We did not expect this, a very nice surprise, but we had no expectations,” Kari said.

“We weren’t surprised he made the shots, we’re just grateful he had the opportunity to do it,” Chris said.

Owen knew he had it in him.

“Being famous is good, and I know that I am cool,” Owen said. “I am excited, I am. And today (Thursday), this is the last game and it’s really, really fun. My team is good.”

This was the first time Owen had played this season, but he has an active role as the team’s manager.

His mom said: “Because of basketball at Van Hoosen, it’s a cut-sport — so there’s 15 spots. During curriculum night, I had gone over to coach (Jeff) Howell and I said ‘It’s a cut-sport, but is there any way Owen could be the manager?’ And he was great and he said ‘Do you know how many kids are asking to be my manager? For Owen, it’s his.’ ”  
Owen practices with the team and is fully dedicated to it. He has never missed a single practice.

“Last week, when I picked him up from practice, the two of them (Owen and Howell) were walking toward the car with a grin on their face like the cat that swallowed the canary and I’m thinking ‘Oh no, what happened’ and (Howell) goes ‘Hey, we’re going to suit him up next week,’ ” Kari said.

Basketball is something Owen has always loved. His favorite teams are the Pistons and Miami Heat. He also loves Michigan State University basketball.

The idea of playing the game was “the thrill of (Owen’s) life,” Kari said. The team even came up with a play they called “The Owen,” which they practiced for a week

“(The shots were) the last two minutes before halftime, and there they were — they did ‘The Owen,’ ” Kari said.

Owen’s three sisters Madi, 15, Lily, 12, and Ella, 9, have also expressed how excited they are for their brother. They all had their roles in creating attention surrounding the two shots.

During the game, Lily shot the video that went viral across the Internet. The video would end up airing nationally on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Chris also put up a video on YouTube called “Owen’s Big Game,” featuring the shots.

“A lot of people were videotaping it, I guess,” Lily said. “I’m kind of happy I got it. I wasn’t trying to get it all over, but I guess it did (go viral).”

Following the game, Madi helped start the hashtag #GetOwenOnSportsCenter on Twitter.

“I was sitting at home doing homework and my phone started going off,” Madi said. “And I was like ‘What?” and I looked on Twitter and some eight-graders were like ‘Get Owen On SportsCenter’ and then I joined in. Then we got everyone joining in and then it got trending — it was cool.”  
The word spread quickly, making its way to college and professional athletes on Twitter.

“A cool piece of the story is that they have a second, or third cousin at Ferris (State University) that saw it and she put out the tweet and it somehow ended up with RG3 (Robert Griffin III), quarterback for the Redskins and then he responded and then it really took off,” Chris said.

The family did not know how far Owen’s story really went until Thursday morning.

“We were actually out at a surprise party, that was (Wednesday) night,” Kari said. We literally came home from the game, dropped the kids off and left — so we had no idea any of this was going on. Madi called Chris and said ‘Dad, this is going crazy and there’s talk of Owen being on SportsCenter.’ ”

When the couple returned home, they began receiving text messages late Wednesday evening that Owen would be on the local news.

That’s when Kari and Chris found out Owen was on SportsCenter, and he was No. 10 on the show’s Top Plays list. Being late, Owen was already asleep, so they opted to show him in the morning.

“They had Lily’s video from the shots, from her iPod, and they were just playing it,” Kari said. “At the end, the one gentleman, you could hear him say ‘this needs to be number one.’ ”

The next morning when they woke up, SportsCenter had Owen as No. 1. Since being No. 1 on SportsCenter, he has done a live interview with ESPN and has been featured in the national media.

Owen said everyone at school is telling him what a good job he has done, giving him high-fives and everyone knows who he is, which makes him feel good.

Owen’s advice for success is “never give up and keep going forward.” And that’s what he said he will continue to do.

Contact Megan Semeraz at 248-745-4628 or email or follow her on Twitter @MeganSemeraz