Slam dunk: North Rowan Middle student starts off game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SPENCER — A deafening cheer erupted in the gym as Jared Perdue scored the opening shot at Monday’s North Rowan Middle School basketball game. Spectators rose to their feet, stomping on the bleachers and yelling, “Go Jared!”

Even parents and family of the rival team cheered.

“Everyone’s coming together for one thing.” ICC teacher Brad Hamrick said

Jared, a seventh-grader, is a special needs student at North Rowan Middle, and he’s got quite the toss. North Middle’s CCAC class goes into the gym to shoot basketball every day, and it was there that Jared caught the eye of boy’s basketball coach Reggie McConneaughey.

“We’ve developed a bond last year,” McConneaughey said.

It was McConneaughey’s idea to have Jared score the opening points of Monday’s game.

“I just wanted him to be involved in the last home game,” he said.

McConneaughey, who Jared has nicknamed “grandpa,” also works as a long-term substitute, and is familiar with working one on one with special needs students. But when he, Hamrick and CCAC teacher Sherry Wilhoit began hatching their plan last week, there was something McConneaughey didn’t know.

“I didn’t know it was his birthday,” he said.

Jared turned 14 Monday afternoon, and as he sat on the bleachers before the game, dressed in North Middle’s blue and white and sporting a pair of Nike tennis shoes, he said he thought it was a great birthday, though he was a little nervous.

But his school was behind him, 100 percent. As Jared was announced on the court, North Middle students clapped and waved signs made by Hamrick’s class.

“Everybody knows Jared,” Wilhoit laughed.

Jared’s very involved at the school, she said, and loves sports — he started off a wrestling match in fall. He’s outgoing, funny, friendly and a “lady-killer.” If you ask him, he’ll tell you that he has a girlfriend at North High.

During the first minute of the game, Jared dribbled up the court and scored the first point. The crowd went wild. On his second shot, he fumbled and missed, a little nervous, but both sides of the gym urged him on as he tried again. Later, he was given a basketball that was signed and decorated by the art teacher.

Wilhoit said that’s what she loves about North Middle.

“I’m just thankful we have a school that embraces our diversity and special needs kids,” she said.

But what she and others at the school love about Jared is something different: he’s kind, and puts others before himself.

“I just think Jared makes the world a better place,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.