By: Dominic Scianna
Champaign, IL (March 2023) – The concept is a novel one that promotes integrity, honesty, sportsmanship, achievement, plus a unique brand of competition and fun all thrown into one. The concept’s name is Unified Basketball which first became an official Special Olympics Illinois sport in 2016. This March, Special Olympics Illinois and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) hosted the Unified State Basketball Championship competition in conjunction with the IHSA Boys State Basketball finals at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus.
CPS had two Southside teams in the finals with Southside Occupational Academy Hub in conjunction with De La Salle Institute and Southside Occupational Academy High School in conjunction with St. Rita High School. Both teams placed in the top four in the Division II Championships. The South Side-De La Salle squad captured a gold medal in defeating East St. Louis High School in the title game by a score of 63-32. In the third-place contest, Southside-St. Rita lost to Limestone High School, earning a fourth-place medal for their fine season. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is a participating sponsor with Special Olympics Illinois.
“We are proud to have our CPS participating high schools aligned with Special Olympics Illinois and the IHSA for this Unified State Championship Basketball series,” said David Rosengard, Executive Director of Chicago Public School’s Office of Sports Administration. “It’s such a worthwhile and special event for our student-athletes to participate in as well as their families to witness firsthand their amazing accomplishments.”
The Unified basketball rosters are made up of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and Unified partners, or those without an intellectual disability. The UCS strategy works to further develop inclusive learning and social environments for all students. The three key components of Unified Champion Schools are: Unified sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement. To learn more, visit https://ucs.soill.org.
“It has been the most gratifying experience I’ve ever had in coaching,” said Southside–De La Salle head basketball coach Tom White. “And winning this IHSA Unified State Basketball Tournament was one of the proudest things I’ve ever experienced with a team I’ve coached.”
White formerly served as head varsity basketball coach at De La Salle and now serves as the Meteors’ Director of Athletics.
“This was a great experience for all of us,” said Southside–St. Rita head basketball coach Marc Rice. “All the practices and work the team put in was all worthwhile. To be a part of something like this was special.”
“Unified programming has been integral to the opportunities Special Olympics Illinois offers,” said Dave Breen, President & CEO, Special Olympics Illinois. “This year, we saw more than 300 teams participate in our basketball programming, with 28 Unified teams throughout the state, including eight Chicago Public Schools. So, the growth we’ve seen with Unified sports has been incredible. We are excited about the Unified initiative, along with our partnership with the IHSA and Chicago Public School, all of which help to showcase inclusion, sportsmanship and ability.”
See both CPS Southside team finalist rosters below.
Southside–De La Salle Roster: Tom White, Head Coach; John Brogan, Assistant Coach; Dylan Clark, Unified Partner; David Coffey, Unified Partner; Chris Cole, Unified Partner; Trevon Darden, Athlete; Dustin Alan Deal, Assistant Coach; Brandon Dorsey, Athlete; Dwan Dumas, Assistant Coach; Matthew Furdge, Athlete; Cesar Galindo, Athlete; Dayquon Haywood, Athlete; Marcus Holmes, Athlete; Kaleb Navarro, Unified Partner; Thomas Schergen, Assistant Coach; Timothy Schergen, Unified Partner.
Southside–St. Rita Roster: Marc Rice, Head Coach; Raymond Harris, Assistant Coach; Andrew McIntosh, Assistant Coach; Nick Antonowicz, Unified Partner; Benjamin Bubacz, Unified Partner; Kevin Gaughan, Unified Partner; Matthew Grzyb, Unified Partner; Tommy Harrison, Athlete; Tommy Iaquinta, Unified Partner; Donzel Marshall, Athlete; Calvin Moore, Athlete; Jonathan Robinson, Athlete; Ja’Hani Woods, Athlete; John Standring, Assistant Coach.
IHSA Unified State Basketball is one of 13 Unified state sports competitions. It is the championship-level competition for those participating in high school Unified basketball at Unified Champion Schools and IHSA member schools. Teams qualify for this event by winning regional tournaments held across the state.
About Special Olympics Illinois
Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit sports organization offering year-round training and competition in 18 sports for more than 21,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and 9,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. It strives to be a global leader in shaping a culture where people with and without intellectual disabilities are fully integrated into the community by providing year-round opportunities in competitive sports, health education, leadership, and personal development. If you are interested in being a part of Special Olympics Illinois and its vision, contact your local region, call our headquarters at 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org. Also, you can follow Special Olympics Illinois on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.