UH surprises 10-year-old ball boy with lupus and kidney disorder with trip to Sweet Sixteen

Adam Winkler Image
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Remember little Jace? UH's biggest fan makes Sweet 16 trip
Before the season, Jace Abarca, 10, signed with his favorite team, the Houston Cougars. Now, with his team in the Sweet 16, he's cheering on the Coogs in person.

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KTRK) -- Prior to Friday's Sweet Sixteen matchup, ABC13 found a story bigger than basketball - and one that might just put a smile on your face.

And delivering smiles is exactly what young Jace Abarca has done for the University of Houston basketball team.

Back in October, ABC13 was there as the Coogs officially announced the 10-year-old was joining their program. This was through a partnership with Team IMPACT, a nonprofit matching children facing serious illness and disability with college sports teams.

Young Jace, who is living with lupus and a kidney disorder, has developed a close bond with the Coogs throughout the season, even serving as the team's lead ball boy during home games.

On Thursday, via Zoom from Kansas City, head coach Kelvin Sampson and UH players surprised Jace and his family with the news he was coming to KC to attend Friday's game vs. Miami.

ABC13 caught up with Jace and his mother Yaneth moments after they arrived at the T-Mobile Center.

"I feel like somebody planted a rainbow seed in my brain and it's growing and growing," Jace said of his excitement to be in Kansas City with his favorite team.

"Just knowing he has something to look forward to after the pills and treatments and doctors' appointments," Yaneth said of this experience for her son.

She also shared he's in remission and feeling great.

"He gives us confidence because he continues to fight, so we want to continue to fight for him," UH guard Terrance Arceneaux said about Jace. "Seeing him happy and smiling gives us confidence and it makes us happy."

Throughout this entire postseason run, the Coogs have told us how much they enjoy their teammates. They consider Jace one of those irreplaceable teammates.

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SEE ALSO: Houston Cougars star Tramon Mark carries Final Four souvenir backpack to Sweet Sixteen

Tramon Mark and his Coogs are two wins away from getting to play in a Final Four in their own backyard. It's something that his own backpack reminds him of everytime he carries it.