NORTON — The men’s basketball team at Wheaton College welcomed their newest member, 10-year-old Matthew Lacoste of Attleboro, on Sunday afternoon as part of a community program by Team IMPACT.
In the Emerson Gymnasium on campus, surrounded by the cheering members of his family and new friends on the basketball team, Lacoste excitedly high-fived the athletes as he entered the gym for the ceremony while the theme from “Rocky” played from a stereo.
Brian Walmsley, Wheaton College’s men’s basketball head coach, inducted Lacoste onto the team just as if he were being received into the NBA itself.
Lacoste’s parents, Kevin and Elisa, and his older sister Brianna, who is a junior at Wheaton majoring in psychology with a minor in education, joyfully watched the induction.
“It’s really remarkable,” Kevin Lacoste said. “There are no words.”
Matthew, who was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome while very young, enjoys dribbling the basketball, his father said. Williams Syndrome is a developmental disorder which also affects the cardiovascular system and has an impact on gross motor skills which are usually acquired during childhood.
However, the practice of dribbling the basketball has been helping Matthew’s coordination and spacial recognition.
“He’s fortunate in that way; that he can dribble a ball,” Kevin Lacoste said, adding that Matthew also loves playing with marbles.
After the induction, members of the basketball team and the Lacoste family enjoyed pizza in the athletic center’s conference room.
Team captain David Carbonello, as well as co-captains Ricardo Ripley and Alex Dubrow, embraced Lacoste’s positive personality on their team, which Carbonello says has “lightened the mood” during practices.
“He always seems to be in a good mood; he never seems to worry about anything and he gets so happy about the smallest things,” Carbonello said.
Walmsley believes the relationship between Wheaton College and the non-profit Team IMPACT, which connects children with chronic or serious illnesses with college athletic teams, has been a “great experience,” not just for himself, but for the team as a whole.
Brianna Lacoste was excited to have her little brother at the same school.
“It’s awesome. I feel like I’m closer to the school community with him here,” she said.