Two Worlds, One Team: two members of the US Deaf Basketball team.

Let’s talk about the history of the World Deaf Basketball Championship. Throughout the history of the championship, the USA has never won. So far. Hi, I’m Jim Destefano, and I’m the head basketball coach for the U.S. Men’s Team. Now, we are going to go to Taiwan to get the gold and bring it back here and tell the world we’re BACK! We’re BACK! …nowadays it’s very, very important… …started training camp last Friday. we got our 12 players together and we’ve been practicing ever since. Today’s our 6th practice. We have scrimmage tonight and a practice game tomorrow, then we fly out tomorrow night to Taiwan. [shoes squeaking, basketballs bouncing] My name is Joshua McGriff. I’m from New Jersey. Joshua. He’s a big guy, 6’8 – [shoes squeaking] – but he’s just really soft-hearted. Very, very friendly. Easygoing. His family’s very supportive. This is Joshua’s third international experience right now. And it’s nice to see such an encouraging family like Joshua’s. What I enjoy most about basketball is how it’s like having a second family, on the level of when we play, it’s like we’re going off to war together, we stick together, we know we have each other’s backs, I can trust the other players, whether we win or lose. [high fives, cheering] Let’s go, let’s go [locker slams, shuffling, shoes squeaking] …pass the ball around, if there’s no opening, drive. If you’re stopped, then pass, pass, drive, pass, pass, drive! Keep at it, openings will pop up. Force the defense to work. Let’s go! [claps] Woo! [1, 2, 3, yea!] Come on in! Over here, check it out. During my high school and Gallaudet days – well, high school and college days, I scored over 1,000 points. I remember when I recruited Jeremias. I went to his home, walked in the house and saw all these balls all over on the floor. I talked with his father and he said he gets up every morning and gets right to work on his ball skills. It’s my passion. I’ve always – well my father, he really loves basketball, although he’s actually an Olympic cyclist – and he did track, I had some good friends who happened to be basketball players and I just tagged along and it grew from there. I became immersed in the world of basketball. I grew up mainstreamed. Really, I was mainstreamed because all of my brothers are hearing, my mom and dad are hearing, I come from a long line of hearing family members. [laughing, shuffling] This is what we used to do after soccer games, during the last game. I do not remember that. Remember the soccer parties? Nah, nah, not soccer, baseball. Oh, ok. Here we are at my old high school. Pretty big, right? This is Franklin High School. I played here for 5 – no – 4 years sorry, 4 years. My experience growing up mainstreamed, um, it was tough, it was tough I was the only deaf or “hard of hearing” person at my school out of 3,500 students. My family has always supported me not only related to basketball but off the floor just always supported me and made me feel like it didn’t matter if I was deaf or hard of hearing. It didn’t matter. Josh would never sing along with the radio, um, he couldn’t hear the words. And when he got the CI, he started to sing along. Can’t hold a note –
[laughter] – but he would sing along. [music: The Weeknd ‘Can’t Feel My Face’] [music]
I can’t feel my face when I’m with you But I love it But I love it, ooh I have asthma so for me it was like I’m asthmatic, Josh has a hearing impairment, and Jared needed glasses or contacts growing up [laughter]
[Josh: he couldn’t see anything.] and never to me was it something like Josh is deaf it was just like everyone has something, like we all have, like that we deal with – [Dad] They all have their own gifts.
[laughter] You ready to go home? Tired? [Jeremias] You want to play basketball with Daddy? [child] I’d rather be with Mom. [Jeremias] You don’t want to play basketball? You sure? [child] Nooo. [child] Will (name sign) be there? Yes. And (name sign) too? Yes. Does that change your mind?
Want to go play basketball now? [child nods head yes] [child] Look, there! From a young age, I went to a school for the Deaf, the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind – ASDB. I went to ASDB until I was 14, then we moved to California School for the Deaf Riverside for a better education and a better sports program. It was a tough decision for my parents, they really grappled with it, especially coming from a Hispanic culture that values loyalty to family and community. I remember on the day we left, it was a really emotional trip. It’s about an 8 hour drive from Tucson to Riverside. Of those eight hours of driving, I spent at least four crying and wondering if we should turn back, but Dad just kept saying let’s keep going forward to Riverside and get a better education. It really was a success: I graduated from college, all of my siblings are college graduates, and my parents, they really appreciate what they did. And I thank my parents for that. The future is very bright. It’s different. Make sure you take in every minute that someone tries to teach you something; take it in and keep it in your mind for later. It may not make sense now, but it will later. The pain you’re going through now doesn’t need to define the the rest of your life. It’s only temporary. So… I’ve had an amazing life. [Noah] If they do a full-court press
this year, what do we do? [Jeremias] Keep giving the ball to the middle. Don’t be so conservative with the ball. Aggressively pass the ball, attack. The more we attack, the sooner they’ll stop pressing. I’ve been asked, what would my life be like if not for basketball? I’ll be honest with you. If not for family, sports (mostly basketball), and schools for the Deaf, I might be on drugs, in a gang, or long dead; my Arizona hometown was overrun with gangs, it had the highest crime rates in the state; not only that, my own home street saw murders, drug crimes, etc. But despite all that, and my family’s poverty, we overcame it and my life took a different path. And for that I’m grateful to my whole family, including my grandparents, my parents, my sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts. Basketball has kept me busy throughout my life and given me goals – like the Olympics, college, high school national championships. If not for those dreams, if I had no dreams or goals, what would have been the point of my life? My experience at the school for the Deaf is what pushed me to go to college and pushed me to pursue my dreams. I had wonderful staff and teachers who pushed me to a different path and that’s where I found my dream. I am thankful for those three experiences; if not for those, who knows where I’d be? [This has been a production of ZVRS.]

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