ELK GROVE — For special needs student Lucas Applegate, making the Monterey Trail High School basketball team was a moment that changed his life. Little did he know the impact his role on the team would have on the Monterey Trail community.
The 10th grader didn't just make the team, he delivered. The underdog athlete rose to the occasion and put points on the board in several games.
As captured in a video, fans from both sides of the court erupt into applause when Applegate scores.
"That was the best day of my life seeing the video," Applegate said. "Me actually shooting the ball very far from the three-point line. I just splashed that in. I went 'Oh my gosh. I'm like Mike.' "
Applegate is "Like Mike," but rather than magical shoes, it's his team that gives him superpowers.
"They love me to death, they really do," Applegate said. "My family told me, 'You're lucky to have a team that cares about you.' "
His teammates agree: Applegate brings the energy to every game and practice.
"He's not letting anything stop him," teammate Jaylen Jackson said. "He comes out and tries his hardest."
When Applegate steps on the court, the atmosphere is electric.
"Every time he steps on the court, it's like we're in a championship game," said Evin Silva, head coach of the Monterey Trail High School JV basketball team. "People from the other team are standing up out their seats. Our parents are really loud. I think we give varsity a run for their money some games."
For Principal Lara Ricks, it's beyond basketball. She has a special needs daughter of her own, also at Monterey Trail. Applegate's story is proof that anything is possible.
"It really is emotional for me because I was lucky enough to bring her here as well," Ricks said of her daughter. "I did that knowing that this is a school that embraces our students no matter what their abilities. Watching him validates that even for me."
Mikey Padilla, Applegate's behavioral aid, said the team culture has played a significant role in his mentee's success.
"Even though he has a disability, no one sees him differently down to his teammates," Padilla said. "It's really cool to see."
Applegate continues to break barriers – one shot at a time.
"My dad always said, 'You can do anything you want, son,' " Applegate said. "You could always put the effort in. All it takes is practice."
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