When new head boy’s basketball coach Moe Cramer set out to build his first team with the Warriors, he brought an important piece with him from his freshmen team a year ago. He’s a critical player to the Warriors this season, a key factor in “the perfect storm,” as Cramer describes his first varsity coached team.
He won’t score 20 points a game or even lead the team in rebounding; he will hopefully play a little, but nearly everything he does unfortunately does not show up on the statistics sheet. However, he will lead the team in assists, not the fancy-passing kind that result with one player scoring thanks to the pass from his teammate. His assists are of the heart.
Aaron Swain will be suiting up for the Warriors this year, and while you might not see his name being printed in the all-league selections at the end of the season, I’m fairly confident that if the Warriors are to succeed, Swain’s impact will be a big part of it. Swain is a special needs student-athlete who played last season for Cramer with the Indians. When the head coach made the jump to varsity basketball, he brought his inspiration with him.
“He makes every practice, works very hard and is probably the easiest one to deal with,” Cramer said. “He’s out here as an inspiration to us all.”
Swain’s impact on the team is noticeable. He’s not there simply as a cheerleader or team manager. He takes part in practices. He’s given the opportunity to participate in some drills and breaks team huddles. He even has a decent jump shot, one he made twice while my camera was pointed in his direction at a recent practice. He’ll get the call to come into the games as well, when the Warriors are winning. Call it motivation enough to handle business. If the Warriors earn a big lead, Swain will see some action.
Cramer’s made it very clear from all early indications that this varsity basketball team will be a little different. The talent is slightly higher than in years past. Everything from the offensive plays to the defensive scheme will include a little more grit, more hustle, and with Swain’s addition, heart.
I’ve had the pleasure of being part of teams with special needs students as well. Their involvement brings with it a sense of responsibility for the players. Every one of them feels like they have to watch out for a player like Swain and teach him the game. Funny thing is, those special players like Aaron Swain are teaching us all along. It’s a paradigm shift high school students rarely understand until much later in life.
Playing time for Aaron Swain is dependent on the results of his teammates. I’m sure he trusts them plenty to put some crooked numbers on the scoreboard and give the Warriors a large enough lead for Coach Cramer to look down the bench and call his name. It will no doubt be the highlight of any fan’s night, blowout or not.
I sure hope I hear plenty of “we want Aaron” chants from the crowd this season at THS. That will mean two things: the Warriors are winning, and we’re all about to be taught a heartfelt lesson.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.