One Boy's Hoop Dreams Inspire Others

Autistic basketball player/coach Jason McElwain on the Early Show April 9, 2009
Three years ago, Jason McElwain, a high school senior with autism, got America's attention when he scored 20 points in the final basketball game of his school's season.

Scoring those points, he said, felt "like winning the national championship." Today McElwain is an assistant coach on his former high school's team in Rochester, N.Y., and now two other autistic students are following in his footsteps.

Like McElwain did, John Titus and Patrick Thibideau served as managers for their respective high school's basketball teams, located in towns 20 miles apart in Maine. Both had dreams of playing on the varsity squad. And in their senior years, both got the opportunity to hit the court with their teams and play in a game.

The three spoke to Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen in an exclusive interview.

McElwain told Chen that when he heard about the other boys' stories, he wasn't surprised.

"I knew something like this would happen again," he said. "As soon as I heard about them, I had tears."

Titus said that when his coach turned to him and said to get in the game, he was excited.

"Were you prepared?" Chen asked.

"Yes," he responded immediately.

"Were you nervous?"

"I was a little bit," he acknowledged. "But not a lot."

Thibideau also said that playing for his school team "felt great."

His father, Perry Thibideau, said watching his son play was heartwarming.

"It's something that we dreamed about -- or I dreamed about, anyway -- for quite a few years."

During the live interview, Ron Lydick, from McDonalds, offered the two seniors an opportunity to attend a summer basketball camp with the Boston Celtics, on behalf of the company.

"I'm excited … I'm a huge Celtics fan," Titus said after the announcement.