NEW PORT RICHEY — Randy Yingling was nervous as he watched his son Lucas join the other players on the basketball court in the Wendell Krinn Technical High gymnasium.
Lucas, 7, was the youngest in the group of towering college basketball players and adult Special Olympics athletes who had come for a special conditioning clinic last week to help hone their skills.
“Being on the autism spectrum, he’s already critical of himself,” Yingling said, after Lucas took his turn at a layup shot.
The thing is, Lucas loves basketball. Even if he doesn’t verbalize it.
He’s pretty quiet until he gets to know you, his dad said.
Even so, there were traces of a smile as Lucas dodged around Pasco-Hernando player Hayden Greene, 18, during a dribbling drill.
Getting a kid to come out of his shell — even just a little bit — is one of the goals of the clinic, said Special Olympics basketball coach Eileen DiBrizzi who coordinated the clinic with Pasco-Hernando basketball coach Micheal Jones.
The activity helps the athletes with social skills as well as athletic skills, she said. “And they get to meet a real basketball team from college.”
“Today is all about you guys,” Coach Jones told the athletes. “We’re going to do some drills, play a little basketball and have some fun.”
And Jones’ team members had something to gain, as well.
“They’re giving back to the community,” he said. “Yeah, it’s about basketball, but it’s also about sharing it with other people and knowing that you can have fun doing it.
“It’s a reminder for us that life is going on around us.”