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Special Olympian authors book on magical basketball season


“A Magical Season” by John Wheeler is a small book overflowing with excitement and joy as he describes this magical season of basketball.

Basketball is obviously a game he loves, and he takes us through the games of their 2018-2019 championship season. John has been involved with Special Olympics Shelby County for over eleven years. According to the short biography on the back of the book, he also has been involved in track and field, softball and flag football. I am sure he enjoys all of those sports, but I can’t imagine that he loves any of these as much as he loves basketball.

One of the other reasons that John says that this season was so special, besides the championship was “how everyone on the team played with each other and got along with each other.” That sentiment is demonstrated so well in the way John describes the action of the games when the players obviously are not “grandstanders” and are concerned about the team as a whole.

The coach, Hal Gambrel, receives high praise from John because he helped them grow as a team, believing in them and trusting their judgment on the court.

John came to the team after a disappointment when he was cut from his high school team. A friend told him about another team in Shelby County who would be glad to have him play for them, and so he joined the Special Olympics team. The competition among the Special Olympics teams in the state is at “about the (level) of a varsity high school game” which can be pretty fierce, I can imagine, in a state like Indiana where basketball has always been so important.

Coach Hal Gambrel says in the foreword that this season was a “truly magical and wondrous season … a season when all things come together, the stars align and lightning is caught in a bottle.” Gambrel goes on to say what readers can see clearly from John’s words that the real magic of the team “has always been their friendship, loyalty and love for each other, along with a strong competitive spirit.”

It sounds like an unbeatable combination and in the 2018-2019 season, it truly was.

John takes us through the games that brought this team to the big moment when the final buzzer rang on their final game. His descriptions demonstrate the strength of this team as they make good strategic decisions to win games. Their victories are a tribute to their commitment to the team.

We have all seen games where one player seems to almost be playing alone, not passing, just trying to take all the shots. That is definitely not the case with the Shelby County Magic.

Congratulations to this winning team and to John for sharing the magic with us.

“A Magical Season” is available in paperback for $10.


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