|02-13-2012, 06:33 PM||#1|
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Deaf player fulfills dream of playing for Penn State
Deaf player fulfills dream of playing for Penn State - CBS 21 News - Breaking news, sports and weather for the Harrisburg -York -Lancaster -Lebanon Pennsylvania area
The pregame meeting.
For a basketball team, this is where it all comes together.
But the team at Penn State Harrisburg requires another set of hands; because one of it's players is deaf.
Six-foot five-inch Doug Persing is just a freshman, so he doesn't play a lot. His mere presence, though, has taught his teammates at this Division III program that not only do you need a nose for the ball, you have make the most of your other senses, too.
"That's one thing we've learned as a whole team; to communicate more," said Steve Jones, a junior from Harrisburg and the Nittany Lions' leading scorer at 16.2 ppg.
Communication is about connecting; and Doug constantly receives a huge assist from his interpreter, Kendra Blessing.
Where Doug goes. She goes.
"I have to depend on the interpreter a lot, but also I have to learn myself independently how to communicate with my teammates, as well," said Persing, through Blessing.
Of course, Persing could have gone to Gallaudet or another university for the deaf, but told CBS 21 News Sports Director Jason Bristol he wanted a challenge.
Persing was also willing to take a risk -- of possibly not fitting in -- to follow his dream.
"When I grew up in Pennsylvania, my dream was to go to Penn State," added Persing, who has played in eight games this season and has made two of his four free throw attempts. "I don't want to feel limited to (going to) Gallaudet or a deaf school just because I am Deaf.
"I wanted to be different."
Persing, who attended both the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh and Scranton School for the Deaf, is one of only four deaf college basketball players who have gone "mainstream," according to research conducted by DeafDigest. Ronald Norfleet (Central Oklahoma); Greg White (Ohio Wesleyan); and Luke Adams (Texas Tech) are the others.
Persing said he lost is hearing when he was only nine-months-old after being treated for a staph infection.
Being deaf is obviously not an issue for Doug, but being deaf can be issue for others.
For starters, Doug and Kendra had to make sure they were on the same page. "At the beginning, it was a little tough," said Blessing. "But I would always ask him, 'What does this mean?' or "What does that mean?' to make sure I understood clearly. He would either explain to me what it meant or we would make up signs for stuff."
His teammates? They respect Persing for how hard he works in practice, as well as his desire to be different; but at the same time, be like everyone else.
"As the season goes along, each day that goes by, (it) becomes more and more normal for him and for us, where he is just one of the guys," said coach Mike Gaffey.
Gaffey said he had no reservations about adding Persing to the club after seeing him at a tryout.
"I don't feel special or unique in any way," Persing said about being a Nittany Lion. "I just feel like any other kid would."
That's another sign of a team that has truly come together.
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller