9-year-old with special needs becomes honorary high school basketball coach

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HS basketball team embraces special needs child (KTRK)

Past the players, next to the band, and among the fans, you'll see Reece Hayden-White, a 9-year-old with intellectual disabilities who has a love for basketball.

More importantly, he has a love for the Olathe West High School Owls basketball team in Olathe, Kansas.

"He's a great kid, he has a big heart and inspires us every day to keep working," Olathe West High School junior Dominic Messina told KSHB.

Reece first met the team in December at a clinic the Owls hosted for the Special Olympics.

"He was the life of the party. He absolutely loves playing basketball, he was on the court playing with the guys the whole time," said Brad Ball, the team's head coach.

Since then, Reece has cheered on the team game after game.

"Usually he's screaming my name or good job or something. I can just tell it's him because he has a special voice," said junior Kellen Welsh.

Each time, slowly but surely creeping his way over to sit next to "the guys" and cheering, sometimes booing, but always mesmerized.

"He's always over there cheering. Always has a smile on his face," Messina said.

Reece's mom is always smiling too.

"The fact that they are willing to do that even it's not on the court or anything," said mom Katie Hayden.

He was unknown in this gym when the season began, but now Reece is part of the team.

"Like not a manager, because he is not doing stuff but he's become pretty a pretty huge part of the team, more like an assistant coach," Welsh said. "He says it's hard for him to make friends his age but he's got friends in all of us. We're all part of his family pretty much now. He supports all of us - we support him."

It is a special friendship that is truly timeless.
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sportsspecial olympicsspecial needs childrenbasketballhigh schoolhigh school sportsKansas