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Michigan middle schooler with Down syndrome makes 'SportsCenter'

Owen Groesser makes a pair of three-pointers and lands a spot on ESPN

Rochester Hills Van Hoosen Middle School basketball coach Jeff Howell, right, stands by as Owen Groesser, 13, shoots in the school gym after his three-point shots in a game Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, landed him on ESPN's Top 10. / Tammy Battaglia, Detroit Free Press

Owen Groesser made the shot.

Then he made another one.

Then he made "SportsCenter."

Groesser, an eighth-grader at Van Hoosen Middle School in Rochester Hills (Mich.), garnered national attention Wednesday night, after making a pair of three-pointers in a seventh-grade boys basketball game and landing in ESPN’s top 10 plays.

Groesser, who has Down syndrome, took the court for the first time this season in the team’s final home game and talked afterward like a seasoned pro.

“Hey, buddy, good shooting,” his dad, Chris, told him after the game.

“I know that, Dad,” he replied.

Groesser said he knew his youngest kid would respond that way, and that Owen making those three-pointers wasn’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.”

Late in the first half of Van Hoosen’s game against Boulan Park, coach Jeff Howell put Groesser into the game. With about two minutes left, he called his number.

With the crowd chanting Owen’s name, he ran down the court, came off a pick and hit a three-pointer.

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

As the buzzer sounded, Groesser was mobbed by his teammates.

And little did he know that what started as around 20 eighth-graders cheering for him turned into thousands of others tweeting for him, as a campaign to get his shot on "SportsCenter" started with the hashtag, “#GetOwenOnSportsCenter.”

"There was such a tweet explosion,” said Groesser, who was notified about the social-media buzz by his teenage daughters. “It was crazy.”

Howell told his team earlier in the week of his plans to get Owen involved and told his team after the game that, “What you witnessed tonight will stick with you for the rest of your lives.”

Groesser serves as a manager of the team, has wrestled, played football and in the second half Wednesday, sat happily on the bench before getting some more playing time.

Hours later, the shot that was perfected with his dad in the driveway earned him some nationally televised air time, as the No. 10 play in "SportsCenter’s" Top 10.

"Owen, you’re on 'SportsCenter', kid,” co-host Scott Van Pelt said. But to his dad, it was more than just a highlight.

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

Contact Anthony Fenech: 313-223-4527 or afenech@freepress.com
Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech



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