Thanks to social media, basketball player with Down syndrome finds fame

By Marian Hinton
Kirby Lee: USA TODAY Sports

Never underestimate the power of social media. Thanks to Twitter, and the hashtag #GetOwenOnSportsCenter, one lucky special needs basketball player from Rochester Hills has found instant fame.  Owen Groesser, a 13-year old eighth grader with Down syndrome who attends Van Hoosen Middle School in Michigan, found himself on EPSN’s Top Ten plays earlier this week.

In the final basketball game of his team’s season, coach Jeff Howell decided that he would put Groesser, the team’s manager, into the game and give him a chance to play. With two minutes remaining on the clock, Howell told his players to get the ball to Owen. So they did.

As the gym filled up with fans’ frenzied shouts of “Let’s go, Owen! Let’s go, Owen!” the young player rolled off a pick, got the ball, and made a perfect three-point shot.

A couple of minutes later, with just ten seconds remaining in the game, Owen sunk his second three-pointer of the night. As the final buzzer sounded, Owen’s teammates flocked towards him, hugging him and congratulating him while the crowd went crazy.

What happened next was a Twitter explosion, as fans in the gym, their friends, and friends of their friends all took to the social media site to start a grassroots campaign to get Owen onto SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays of the day. Thousands of people bombarded Twitter, pleading with ESPN to #GetOwenOnSportsCenter. Hours later, that is exactly what happened, as Owen and his two made baskets appeared on the television show.

Sure, two three-pointers may not be a big deal to most of us, but to Owen, his father, his coach, and his teammates, it meant everything. And how many of us can say we made it to SportsCenter?

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