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Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

First deaf NBA player teaches kids life lessons through basketball

By Emilee Bench, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Aug. 4 6:10 p.m. MDT

 Hayden Reeve takes a shot during a basketball clinic for deaf and hearing impaired children, their siblings, and youths with disabilities at the Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Taylorsville, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. At back left is Lance Allred. At right is Clay Anderson.

Hayden Reeve takes a shot during a basketball clinic for deaf and hearing impaired children, their siblings, and youths with disabilities at the Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Taylorsville, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. At back left is Lance Allred. At right is Clay Anderson.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

TAYLORSVILLE — Shoes squeaked on the basketball court Monday afternoon as a group of boys practiced dribbling and layups.

But there were no whistles or coaches yelling from the sidelines.

Instead, they used American Sign Language to communicate with the boys during the clinic for youths who are hard of hearing or deaf.

Lance Allred, the first legally deaf NBA player, was among the coaches hoping to teach the boys about more than just basketball.

"Growing up deaf, hearing impaired, people all my life told me what I can't do," Allred said. "I wanted to give other people hope or motivation or courage, I guess, to go do the things they wanted to do with their life."

A typical basketball camp can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing for a child who is hard of hearing, said Marilyn Call, division director for the Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where Monday's clinic was held.

"You're always behind," Call said. "By the time … the rest of the kids are already practicing their dribbling, you're just finding out, 'Oh, we're supposed to do 10 dribbles right now.'"

The weeklong camps for boys ages 8-11 and 12-18 give them an opportunity to gain confidence to fulfill dreams that before may have seemed unattainable, she said.

Allred, who played with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008, said the beauty of basketball is that it's a universal language. He tells the boys to play visually, read body language, and use their strengths.

Allred said he takes out his hearing aids during games. In the fourth quarter, the noise can be deafening for everyone, he said.

"In the land of temporary deafness, the permanently deaf man is king," Allred said.

Joshua Kinner, 12, is deaf and has played basketball since age 7. He said playing with Allred will give him an edge in the upcoming season.

"I mean, he's like a professional player, and to be able to meet with him and learn from him and to improve our skills is great," he signed.

Working with Allred, Joshua also has learned that if he puts his mind to something, he can do it.

"My goal is just to do better in life and to be able to improve and achieve what I want," he said. "I want to go to college and get an education."

Isicc Prettypaint, 17, said he hopes to be a famous basketball player like Allred someday.

"That's really what I want for my future and my life," he said. "(Allred's) a good example to us. I hope to be like that."

Allred said he didn't have a role model to look up to as a boy. He was afraid of failure. He felt inadequate. Eventually he learned he didn't need to constantly prove himself. It's a message Allred said he hopes to leave with the boys.

"I just want them to know they're already perfect. And they don't have to prove anyone anything," he said.

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

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1. DEW Cougars
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 4, 2014

Now I remember in that year 2001-2 with your old coach at the U. You made the right choice to move on to Weber St. and well done getting in with Cleveland Cav. And Gordon Gunds the owner of the Cavs who has Retinitis Pigmentosa is also the first in NBA.

2. VeraLouise
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 5, 2014

I saw a recent interview with Lance. What an incredible, engaging young man! This is wonderful work that he is doing and making such a positive impact on those kids. Lovely, lovely story!

3. xert
Santa Monica, CA,
Aug. 5, 2014

Already perfect and you don't have to prove anything. Hmm. It might work with kids but I have a funny feeling that attitude wouldn't fly in a Rick Majerus practice where nobody was perfect and everybody had a lot to prove.

4. Holly George
Morgan, Ut,
Aug. 5, 2014

great article. I wish the photographer would have gotten some pictures of the kids signing not just the implanted kids.