Five-year-old joins Rams basketball team
The Shepherd men’s basketball team always has a pretty strong backing with crowds cheering on the Rams.
But now, the team has quite the sixth man in Evan Springer, a 5-year-old from Martinsburg.
Evan signed with the Shepherd basketball team Sunday as part of Team IMPACT, a nonprofit organization that connects children facing chronic or serious illnesses with college athletic teams. Evan has Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s exciting. He’s had a rough year,” Evan’s mom, Jessica Springer, said. “He’s been in the hospital a few times, and we’re getting over that. He’s just still maintained his high spirits and pushed through everything.”
Evan sat down with the team and coach Justin Namolik after practice to sign his letter of intent and hit the court directly after, shooting around with his Rams teammates.
“Evan will be in here for about 30 minutes shooting,” Namolik said, laughing. “From both perspectives, I think it’s good for Evan because all the struggles you go through in life, especially at such a young age, to be able to be with the guys and have some fun, takes your mind off things. For our guys, it really puts things in perspective.
“When you think you’re having a bad day because you don’t feel like going to class or something like that, keep things in perspective. I think that’s so important in life to have that. However bad your day might be, Evan probably had worse-off days that you.”
Evan said his favorite part of being a Ram is playing basketball with the older players. The young athlete also plays soccer and baseball, never letting his diabetes get in the way.
“Potentially it could. He has a continuous glucose monitor on, so it updates his blood sugar every five minutes. We have to keep a close eye on it,” Jessica said. “We just keep a close eye on him. We mainstream him as much as possible. We don’t want him to be held back by his diabetes at all. We always make it happen for him.”
After Evan signed, every player went over to give him a high-five and talk about how Evan was going to steal every player’s position. Evan never stopped smiling, especially when the Rams presented him with a poster autographed by the team.
“He loves it,” Jessica said.
The Rams all showed great support and love for their young teammate. The team focuses on showing toughness and is hoping to learn a thing or two about what tough really means from Evan.
“I think a lesson that we try to teach our team is how to overcome adversity. I think that’s what toughness is all about. The buzzword now is ‘grit.’ And for me, grit is just being tough, how you respond to the tough times in your life. For Evan, he’s definitely demonstrated that toughness, all the tough times he’s fought through and he’s still extremely happy. He’s never let it get him down,” Namolik said.
Namolik said it was the first time he’s ever signed such a young player, but he hopes Evan will be part of the Rams family for a long time to come.
“I hope he turns out to be really good so I can keep him,” Namolik said, laughing. “We’re looking forward to the season starting and having him come to games. We’re trying to figure out ways to get him involved during games. It’s going to be good. For us, such a long season, it’ll be good for us when he comes (to games) and comes to practice and shoots around a little bit, brings some perspective to life.”
The Rams open the season on Friday, taking on Bowie State at the Butcher Center, and Evan is sure to be showing his teammates plenty of support.