For two years, Hunter Staggs has been to every basketball practice and every game, home and away.
However, Staggs has never been given the opportunity to put on the uniform and play for himself. Staggs suffers from cerebral palsy.
But during West Middle School’s Feb. 7 regular season finale against South Webster, all of that changed. Staggs was named his team’s honorary foul shooter and for the first time he was able to wear the same uniform as his teammates and friends and take part in the sport he loves.
Staggs, an eighth grade student at West Middle School, is the team manager for the seventh and eighth grade basketball team. He also assists the football team and throws the shot put and discus for the track team.
Senators coach Bill Hafer was very active in the decision to make Staggs the honorary foul shooter. Staggs had been practicing with the team for this event everyday since before Christmas and has received tremendous support from his teammates.
“Every day he would have to make one and when he did, the boys would all get around him and show their support,” Hafer said. “Hunter has been a great inspiration for the team.”
Staggs’ family also showed him tremendous support. His father, Scott Staggs, had no reservations when allowing him to play in the game, putting all of his confidence in Hafer.
“His dad has never set limitations on him,” Hafer said.
Hunter Staggs did seek advice from his family on how to handle himself during the game, but for the most part, Scott gives full credit to the team his son.
Even while suffering through a condition like cerebral palsy, Hunter Staggs remains a positive person.
“There was never a time where he has felt sorry for himself,” Scott Staggs said.
Hunter Staggs referenced his friends as something that keeps him incredibly motivated.
During the game, Hunter Staggs found inspiration within someone else, Gunnar Stump. Stump is a four-year-old with spinal bifida and is confined to a wheelchair but is learning how to walk. Stump sat right behind the bench the whole game.
“Coach Hafer thought that maybe if (Stump) saw me out there on the court, it could be an inspiration for him to do something like that one day,” Hunter Staggs said.
Hafer even mentioned that Hunter Staggs did not even realize that everyone was there for him because he was playing for Stump.
During the game, Hunter Staggs attempted eight foul shots, which included intentional and technical fouls called on the Jeeps. Although he made just one of the eight attempts, anticipation built up each time as Hunter Staggs toed the line.
“You couldn’t tell who were West fans or South Webster fans. They were all on their feet cheering (Hunter’s) name,” Hafer said.
The crowd was one of the biggest one Hafer had seen at a junior high basketball game.
Through living with cerebral palsy, Hunter Staggs does not feel as if he has been held back. He was excited about the opportunity he received.
“You can do anything as long as you put your mind to it,” Staggs said. “It’s possible.”