Thirteen-year-old Jason MacClellan from the City of Tonawanda is the youngest player to sign with the Canisius College men’s basketball team, thanks to the Team IMPACT program.
He was drafted on Dec. 2 by the Division 1 Golden Griffins team, signed a National Letter of Intent during the draft day press conference and wore his team jersey with No. 12.
“It felt really cool, exciting and fun,” he said about the draft. “They said good luck and congratulations and happy you’re on the team.”
Jason, an eighth-grader at Tonawanda Middle School who was born with muscular dystrophy, is sometimes able to attend school but often must stay home and receive instruction from tutors. He learned about Team IMPACT from his social worker through Hospice. The program places children who face chronic health issues with college sports teams.
“It’s really about providing a support network for these kids,” said Mary Welker, a regional manager with Team IMPACT. “They spend so much time in medical facilities that that becomes their support group.”
The relationship between Jason and the team will continue for as long as Jason would like. He has joined the athletic team and the student athletes have joined his support network.
Jason, who has always followed the sport of basketball, finds basketball a very exciting game especially when the Griffs are winning, then there’s a special energy he feels from the crowd.
He has an open invitation to sit on the bench during games. He has his own locker in the players’ locker room. He was at the Dec. 19 game against Boston University and afterward in the locker room, the team dedicated the 84-68 win to Jason. He also attended the Jan. 7 game and was featured on the local television news. WGRZ filmed a special segment with Jason which aired Feb. 10. Watch the clip here.
“Jason has a zest for life,” said Matt Reitnour, assistant athletic director for communications at Canisius College. “It’s eye opening to be in view of Jason who continues doing and wants to be involved.”
Pictured with Jason at his signing are Canisius head coach Jim Baron (left), Jason (middle), Canisius director of basketball operations Cory Macchioni (right).
Teammates pictured below with Jason are (from left to right): sophomore forward Ronnie Gombe, sophomore forward Cassidy Ryan, senior guard Jamal Reynolds, senior center Kevin Bleeker, sophomore guard Kassius Robertson and head coach Jim Baron.