Video: The Story of Jason McElwain

For a video of this inspiring story, please click the link above to Youtube.

The moment that thrust teenager Jason "J-Mac" McElwain into the spotlight came on a high school basketball court in Rochester, N.Y. on Feb. 15, 2006. When, at the last home game being played by Greece Athena, with four minutes left to play, Jason scored 20 points, including a school record of six three-pointers.

For any young athlete, such a performance would have brought friends and family to their feet. But for Jason, who is autistic, his moves on the court that night propelled everyone who witnessed it into the stratosphere. Tears flowed and cheers of "J-Mac!," "J-Mac!" thundered across the court. Daniel Paisner, with whom Jason later wrote his book, sums up the night this way:

"That he was there at all, in uniform, was remarkable, considering that until he was three years old Jason McElwain refused to eat unless he was forced to do so. He didn't speak until he was five. He spent most of his early childhood sitting beneath his parents' dining room table banging together two packs of Trident Bubble Gum, or alone in the corner of his special-needs classroom, disconnected from the other children.

"As a child, he was unable to maintain eye contact or respond to the most basic external stimuli. His body went rigid at the slightest touch. He often appeared to stare blankly across the room. His parents worried that they would never reach him, that Jason would remain closed off from the simple social interactions that moved the rest of the world."

McElwain had never made the team because of his height (5'6") and his skill at the time, but his love and passion for basketball led him to stay with the team as their manager. Proud of his dedication, coach Jim Johnson felt that it would be a fitting show of gratitude to put McElwain in the final home game of the 2005-2006 season, as long as the team was ahead by several points. Greece Athena had a comfortable lead late in the game against the Spencerport High School Rangers, and the coach put McElwain in the game. His appearance on the court elicited a loud cheer from the supportive home crowd.

McElwain's first three-point attempt was an airball, which he followed with a missed layup. However, within a four minute period at the end of the game, McElwain seemingly entered "The Zone", redeeming himself in spectacular fashion by scoring one two-pointer and six three-pointers (tying the school 3-point field goals made in a game record). His last three-pointer was the final shot of the game, and as the final buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted with wild jubilation, stormed the court, and swarmed around him as his teammates lifted him up onto their shoulders. The moment was captured on the team's camcorder (taped by a student).

Teacher Andy McCormack was in the audience that night to see the game. McCormack was Jason's Speech/Language Pathologist throughout high school, and Jason had asked McCormack to be there that night. The day after the game, McCormack called John Kucko, Sports Director for Rochester's WROC Channel 8 news, and begged him to view a videotape of the game. Kucko would later say that it was the intensity and sincerity of McCormack's plea that made him decide to take a look at the tape. As soon as he saw it, Kucko immediately acted to get the highlights on that evening's newscast. Other local news stations picked up on it and followed suit by the next day, and within days the tape reached a national audience. McCormack continued to support Jason over the next few months in school, helping coin alternative language expressions to his now-famous "hotter than a pistol" phrase and helping him construct an introduction speech when Magic Johnson came to Greece Athena to speak to the student body.

Article from Wikipedia and Carol Herman,
Book Editor at The Washington Times