An ESPN highlight: Rochester Hills student with Down syndrome sinks two 3-pointers

An ESPN highlight: Rochester Hills student with Down syndrome sinks two 3-pointers


An ESPN highlight: Rochester Hills student with Down syndrome sinks two 3-pointers


With just two minutes left in the half, Coach Jeff Howell kicked his plan into action: He told Owen Groesser to hit the gym floor.

Owen, an eighth-grader with Down syndrome at Van Hoosen Middle School in Rochester Hills, had been practicing with Howell for a couple of months.

Now, Owen ran down the court, came off a pick and hit a three-pointer.

The crowd at Wednesday’s game against Troy’s Boulan Park went wild, screaming, chanting and waving signs emblazoned with Owen’s name.

Owen ran down court and played defense. Then back up court he went, missing a couple of shots before he sank his second three-pointer with just 10 seconds left in the half.

The buzzer sounded, and Owen was mobbed by his teammates.

“What you witnessed tonight will stick with you for the rest of your lives,” Howell told his team after the game, which Van Hoosen won, 35-26.

But the jubilation didn’t end there. Soon, a Twitter campaign was launched to get Owen’s shot on ESPN “SportsCenter” with the hashtag, “#GetOwenOnSportsCenter.” Thousands joined in.

By Wednesday night, he had landed on the Top 10 plays on “SportsCenter.”

Today, Owen’s morning starts with a 6:15 TV interview on WDIV-TV (Channel 4) with former Pistons player Earl Cureton.

The Harlem Globetrotters will be at his school at 10 a.m. to present Owen with the team’s Junior Phenom Award.

“It’s good,” Owen, the team’s manager this season, said Thursday. “Basketball is my life — basketball, football. And my mom went crazy when I made the shot.”

He spent most of Thursday doing live interviews with ESPN, metro Detroit TV and radio news stations and even a station out of Boston. On April 7, he’ll join others with Down syndrome at a Pistons game at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

“It’s so cute, because he’s just Owen,” his mother, Kari Groesser, said Thursday. “He’s like, ‘OK, basketball’s my life. It was easy.’ It’s been darling.”

Owen took the court in that game for the first time this season and talked afterward like a seasoned pro, said his father, Chris Groesser.

“Hey, buddy, good shooting,” Groesser told him after the game.

“I know that, Dad,” Owen replied.

Chris Groesser said Owen’s three-pointers weren’t much of a surprise.

“He’s got a good shot,” Groesser said. “I wasn’t shocked, but I was definitely thrilled. It was a big day for him.”

On Wednesday night’s “SportsCenter” Top 10, Owen’s shot was the No. 10 play.

“Owen, you’re on SportsCenter, kid,” ESPN co-host Scott Van Pelt said.

By Thursday morning, he had moved up to the No. 1 spot.

To his dad, it was more than just a highlight.

“It was like a movie,” Groesser said. “Like the junior-high ‘Rudy.’ “

On Thursday night, Owen was at it again, hitting two two-pointers in the game’s last 90 seconds, Coach Howell said. Van Hoosen defeated Reuther Middle School, 30-14.

“He played an important role in our final game of the year, which was for the city championship,” Howell said. “It was great he was able to contribute to that.”

His mother said the spotlight shows Owen isn’t that different from the kids around him. When she was pregnant with him, she heard plenty of negatives from geneticists and doctors about having a child with Down syndrome.

“They tell you all these horrible things, all that they’ll never be able to do,” she said, “It’s never about what they will do. I just kind of embraced Owen and just said, ‘He’s just a typical little boy.’ I never looked at him as ‘Owen with Down syndrome.’ “

So he plays soccer. Kneeboards. Wrestles. And he’s the smiling face throwing a high-five on a poster touting “Excellence” outside the school office, a boy who is embraced unequivocally by the other students, said his principal, Michael Behrmann.

“That has been a tradition and culture at Van Hoosen for years,” Behrmann said of the 854-student school’s sense of camaraderie with those with special needs. “And I think that was evident by last night’s basketball game.”

Contact Anthony Fenech: 313-223-4527 or Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Staff writer Ann Zaniewski contributed to this report.


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