Eagle River 5-year-old becomes newest member of UAA basketball program
The newest — and smallest — Seawolf is bringing plenty of energy to the UAA basketball team. After signing with the squad at a Wednesday ceremony, Eagle River’s James Ludwig was asked if he’s looking forward to being a part of the UAA men’s basketball program.
“Yeah,” he said before grabbing the microphone and mugging for a crowd of reporters and UAA players.
“I think that’s an excited yes,” chimed in Seawolves head coach Rusty Osborne.
The signing at the Alaska Airlines Center was an unusual affair; after all, the Seawolves don’t usually sign new players in October. But they don’t usually sign 5-year-olds, either.
Ludwig suffers from epilepsy and has behavioral issues, and the special ceremony was brought about through a partnership between UAA and Team Impact, a nationwide nonprofit that connects children with college athletic teams. Over the next two years, James will participate in team practices, go to games and join players at team functions. Ludwig’s mom, Michelle, said the partnership is something she thinks will help her son and her family in several ways.
“Being a special needs family you’re a little isolated,” said Ludwig, who attended the ceremony with her two other children, Lilly and Nathan, as well as the family’s service dog Blitzen.
Ludwig said the thing she’s looking forward to most is the ability to feel like part of a team.
“We’re really looking forward to being involved with this community,” she said.
The signing ceremony was also attended by UAA athletic director Greg Myford, who said he thinks Ludwig will make and immediate impact on the school’s athletic department. Following the event, James and his siblings went on the court at the Alaska Airlines Center, where he dribbled the basketball wearing a bright new green-and-white jersey and a giant smile.
“He loves sports,” his mom said.
Osborne said he’s looking forward to spending time around James and the entire Ludwig family, and thinks James will be a perfect addition to the team.
“We determined we needed to add someone with some grit, some perseverance and a never-quit attitude who would really impact our entire team,” he said.
Osborne said he hops James will be a part of the men’s basketball program for years to come.
“We’re looking for this relationship with James to continue past the two years through the rest of his life and with his family also,” he said.
Michelle Ludwig said the team’s willingness to embrace her family will have the biggest impact of all.
“It gives me hope,” she said.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]