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Finding his sweet spot
Youngster with cerebral palsy at home on the hardwood
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013 11:00 AM
Nicholas Coles moves toward the basket during a league game at Hanover Baptist Church on Saturday. Coles, who has cerebral palsy, spends hours each day practicing his basketball skills in order to compete with his peers. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Crusaders coach Chris Shelton talks to Nicholas Coles before sending him into play at the beginning of the second period of their game. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Nicholas Coles runs down the entire length of the basketball court as a teammate tosses him the ball near the hoop.
He fakes to his left, drives right and sinks a short jumpshot from the elbow of the paint - his sweet spot.
The bucket was enough to nearly unseat much of crowd at Hanover Baptist Church on Saturday and bring a wide smile to Coles, who pumped his fist as he jogged down the court to play defense.
"I had a little victory dance," he recalled.
On the next possession, he found a teammate with a nifty behind-the-back pass.
It's all part of the game for Nicholas, a 12-year-old Southwestern student who has cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects the brain and nervous system.
Those with cerebral palsy often struggle with basic motor skills, making tasks like basketball quite difficult.
Things aren't easy for Nicholas, either, but he doesn't see that as a reason to quit on his dream.
"It's a challenge for me," said Nicholas, who is in the sixth grade. "But I like challenges."
He wants to tune up his skills and play basketball for Purdue University and then in the NBA. Off the court, he plays piano and plans to become a member of the school's marching band.
On Saturday, he finished the game with six points for his team, The Crusaders, made up of fellow fourth, fifth and sixth graders.
Nicholas caught the basketball bug when he was 6 years old after watching kids shoot around in his neighborhood.
Over the years, he has studied the art of dribbling and shooting and invested countless hours practicing.
It all shows on the court.
There is hardly a play that goes by that he is not involved in, and he hustles up and down the court after every possession.
And then there's his shot.
It took him a while to get down the proper motion, but by the age of 10, Nicholas could hit a bucket on a regular-sized, 10-foot goal from behind the free-throw stripe. He's still working on his 3-point shot.
"It's so heartwarming to watch the entire gym roar when he hits a shot," said his mother, Kathryn Coles.
Luckily for her, those opportunities come up often.
His teammates are always eager to pass Nicholas the ball. And for good reason. Earlier this season during a game, Nicholas poured in 10 points and missed just one shot.
"That was one of my best games," he said.
He joined the league at Hanover Baptist Church two years after a leg procedure kept him from trying out for his school team.
Coles said she was relieved to find an outlet to fill her son's drive to play basketball. He is obsessed with the sport, whether it's following his teams - Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder - or convincing his therapist to mesh basketball drills into their sessions.
"They're very supportive, and there was absolutely no hesitation about having Nicholas come in and play," his mother said.
Brad Warren, who runs the youth league at the church, said it's hard not to feed off the determination and spirit that Nicholas shows every day.
"You walk in having a bad day, and you see a kid like that ... good luck going on with your bad day," he said.
Nicholas said he cannot explain what fuels his drive and motivation.
For him, it seems to come to him naturally. But he does admit his desire to change people's perspective about those with disabilities. In his case, he hopes it comes one swoosh at a time.
"People think that people with cerebral palsy can't do as much, but I prove them wrong," he said.
PHOTOS: Your Story - AT HOME ON THE HARDWOOD
VIDEO: Your Story - Nicholas Coles
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