Eighth-grader with Down syndrome enjoying celebrity status after basketball accomplishment goes viral
After his two three-point baskets were captured on video and went viral, Owen Groesser’s fame began spreading through social media, culminating with appearances on ESPN.
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. — Eighth-grader Owen Groesser always knew he had what it takes to be a superstar and that’s what he has become.
Owen, who has Down syndrome, became famous overnight after making two three-point shots in a basketball game for his middle school team, the Van Hoosen Vikings.
In less than 24 hours, the story has gained attention from everyone from local media to ESPN to “Good Morning, America.” His parents, Kari and Chris, never expected the sudden fame, but neither of them were surprised that 13-year-old Owen made the shots.
“We did not expect this, a very nice surprise, but we had no expectations,” Kari said.
“We weren’t surprised he made the shots, we’re “" just grateful he had the opportunity to do it,” Chris said.
Owen knew he had it in him. “Being famous is good, and I know that I am cool,” Owen said. “… I am excited, I am. And today (Thursday), this is the last game and it’s really, really fun. My team is good.”
This was the first time Owen had played this season, but he has an active role as the team’s manager.
His mom said: “Because of basketball at Van Hoosen, it’s a cut-sport, so there’s 15 spots. During curriculum night, I had gone over to coach (Jeff) Howell and I said ‘It’s a cut-sport, but is there any way Owen could be the manager?’ And he was great and he said “Do you know how many kids are asking to be my manager? For Owen, it’s his.’ ”
Owen practices with the team and is fully dedicated to it. He has never missed a single practice.
“Last week, when I picked him up from practice, the two of them (Owen and Howell) were walking toward the car with a grin on their face like the cat that swallowed the canary and I’m thinking ‘Oh no, what happened’ and (Howell) goes ‘Hey, we’re going to suit him up next week,’ ” Kari said.
Basketball is something Owen has always loved. His favorite teams are the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat. He also loves Michigan State basketball.
The idea of playing the game was “the thrill of (Owen’s) life,” Kari said. The team even came up with a play they called “The Owen,” which they practiced for a week. “(The shots were) the last two minutes before halftime, and there they were, they did ‘The Owen,’ ” Kari said.
Owen’s three sisters, Madi, 15; Lily, 12; and Ella, 9, have also expressed how excited they are for their brother. They all had their roles in creating attention surrounding the two shots.
During the game, Lily shot the video that has gone viral on the Web. The video would end up airing nationally on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Chris also put up a video on YouTube called “Owen’s Big Game,” featuring the shots.
“A lot of people were videotaping it, I guess,” Lily said. “… I’m kind of happy I got it. I wasn’t trying to get it all over, but I guess it did (go viral).”
Following the game, Madi helped start the hashtag #GetOwenOnSportsCenter on Twitter.
Hey @SportsCenter, Owen Groesser made more 3-pointers than Duke did last night… #GetOwenOnSportsCenter
“I was sitting at home doing homework and my phone started going off,” Madi said. “And I was like ‘What?’ ” and I looked on Twitter and some eighth-graders were like ‘Get Owen On SportsCenter’ and then I joined in. Then we got everyone joining in and then it got trending — it was cool.”