Jason McElwain, the autistic student manager whose shooting prowess made him an overnight sensation seven years ago, now joins former Syracuse University standout John Wallace as the only retired jerseys in the Greece (N.Y.) Athena High gymnasium.
During a ceremony prior to Athena's home game against Fairport (N.Y.) on Dec. 20, McElwain raised his framed No. 52 jersey overhead as the crowd chanted his now famous nickname "J-Mac" and "fifty-two" over and over. USA Today's Jeff Di Veronica captured the evening wonderfully in a feature on the boy that captivated a nation last decade.
Surely, you remember the night that made J-Mac a household name on Feb. 15, 2006, when Athena coach Jim Johnson inserted McElwain into the team's Senior Night game with four minutes remaining. He made 7-of-13 shots, including 6-of-10 3-pointers, for 20 points in a performance that earned the ESPY Award for Best Sports Moment.
Just as McElwain's four career minutes were Johnson's idea, so too was the jersey retirement ceremony, where his 2006 sectional champion teammates and the community that so adores the now 25-year-old highly-functioning autistic man came to support him.
"I can't thank him enough," J-Mac said of Johnson while addressing a raucous crowd. McElwain has served as an assistant under Johnson for the past six seasons.
"He's there every day," Johnson added. "He has great passion -- all the things you want. The great thing about him is he's such a great team player. He cares about the team first and that's something as a coach you're always trying to preach to your young people."
Likewise, his No. 52 jersey will be forever there on the walls of Athena High, a constant reminder of his inspiring story of perseverance, acceptance and brilliance.
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