John E. Hoover: #dressNathanout nears reality in Owasso
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 7:50 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog
Kevin Durant supported it. So did Johnny Manziel, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron jumped on board. So did Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell.
Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Miss America and one of the guys from "Duck Dynasty" all got behind it.
But it wasn't until Riley Vancuren, with all of 334 Twitter followers, made her appeal did the pressure really start to mount.
That's when Owasso High School basketball coach Mark Vancuren - Riley's dad - decided it was time to make it happen.
Nathan is dressing out.
That's the Twitter hashtag - #dressNathanout, humbly started just a few days ago by Rams senior point guard/quarterback Jaylen Lowe - that on Tuesday resulted in something of a Twitter miracle.
Nathan is Owasso senior Nathan Mitcham, a manager for the Rams basketball team, a reputedly dead-eye shooter at the local YMCA and an "intellectually disabled" student, his mother says, who will dress out and probably play in next Tuesday's game against Sand Springs.
Lowe, who on Wednesday will sign to play football at the University of Tulsa, was asked by Rams parent Michael Lambert if he would get things going on Twitter.
"I was like, 'Yeah, I'll try,' " Lowe said. "I just started tweeting about Nathan, like 'Nathan gets buckets,' and 'Nathan deserves this'. It caught on in Owasso. As soon as I started tweeting about it, everyone else started tweeting about it."
Lowe, who's quite the celebrity himself in Owasso and the Tulsa area, has 1,305 followers. But it soon became a social network phenomenon that stretched way outside Owasso, Tulsa and Oklahoma. It went worldwide.
"Now, celebrities are tweeting it - Johnny Manziel and Toby Keith and Kevin Durant. It's crazy."
Durant, the three-time NBA scoring champ for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has 3.6 million Twitter followers. Shelton, the country music superstar from Ada, has 2.5 million. Underwood, the "American Idol" and country music angel from Checotah, has 1.2 million. Morgan, who has no ties whatsoever to Oklahoma, has 1.1 million.
Someone even tried to get Barack Obama to retweet it, but to no avail. Likewise with Kobe Bryant and Justin Bieber: no response. (A retweet - simply reposting what someone else has already typed - requires one or two taps on the touchscreen of a modern smartphone.)
"It's taken on a life of its own," Vancuren said.
Vancuren asked Sandites coach Mike Bynum if it would be OK if Nathan played in next week's game, and Bynum cleared it with his athletic director. Hopefully, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association won't step in and kill the buzz.
"Is he eligible in all respects?" asks OSSAA executive secretary Ed Sheakley. "Residence-wise, scholastically, has he taken a physical, gotten the concussion test - all that? I mean, you can't just pull a kid out of the stands and let him play, now.
"As long as he meets all the requirements for participation, he can play."
So everyone's down with Nathan playing, including his mom, Linda.
"It makes me feel great because when I went to school, I didn't get this kind of attention and I was just like him," Linda Mitcham said. "At the time, I was in - well, they called it the Special Ed Room back then. Now they call it Resource Rooms. It's a whole different thing, what he's going through.
"Before, the school classified it - and I'm glad it's changed - as mildly mentally retarded. But they're trying to get rid of the 'R' word."
On Tuesday night, as the Rams bused to Muskogee for a game, Vancuren turned in his seat to ask Nathan a couple of questions. Nathan's replies - "Yeah!" - were clear and concise.
"If you walked in and saw Nathan, you wouldn't realize he's a special needs kid," Vancuren said. "The only thing that I'm aware of is that he has difficulty with speech. He puts speech into sentences, and it's just difficult to understand what he's saying.
"I can communicate with him, and the players can communicate with him because we listen to what he's saying and we understand."
Said his mom, "He has trouble with certain sounds, and sometimes he'll say the beginning of a word or the ending sound of a word. If you're around him, you know what he's talking about. ... Unless he's excited. Then forget it. He just goes too fast."
A caveat remains: Nathan must pass a routine physical. That's not expected to be a significant barrier, but you never know.
"Coach told us today that he gets to suit out," Lowe said, "and we've got to be up by a lot for him to play."
That last part shouldn't be a problem either. No disrespect to Sand Springs, but in their previous meeting this season, Owasso won 106-40.
The dream scenario is that Nathan passes his physical, wears the cardinal and white next Tuesday, gets to play and nails a 3-pointer or two or five, and then is a star on Wednesday morning's SportsCenter.
It's happened before. In 2006, Jason McElwain, an autistic student at Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y., got into a game and scored 20 points in four minutes. In January, Dakota Barnes, a special needs senior at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Ariz., was allowed to try out for the team and came in late in a game to hit a 3-pointer. Also last month, Owen Groesser, a 13-year old eighth-grader with Down syndrome who attends Van Hoosen Middle School in Michigan, made two 3s late in a game.
After Groesser's game, students and fans used the Twitter hashtag #GetOwenOnSportsCenter to get not only his highlights on ESPN, but an interview, too.
"I honestly think Nate could do that," Lowe said. "He's always shooting 3-pointers and a lot of 'em go in. ... That'd be really cool."
"He's constantly just shooting it," Vancuren said. "He loves to shoot. And he makes shots. He's not out there shooting and chasing it, he's shooting and making it."
Seeing his friend bomb treys on national television, Lowe said, would "be the best feeling ever. I love helping people out.
"Nate's always happy, but that'd be one of the happiest days of his life."
Original Print Headline: #dressNathanout is nearing reality
All a-Twitter over Nathan
A sampling of celebrities who have retweeted or promoted the Twitter hashtag #dressNathanout to get Owasso senior Nathan Mitcham into a basketball game, and their number of Twitter followers:
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder ...... 3.6m
Blake Shelton, country singer ...... 2.5m
Carrie Underwood, country singer ...... 1.2m
Alex Morgan, women's soccer ...... 1.1m
Scotty McCreery, country singer ...... 676k
Willie Robertson, "Duck Dynasty" ...... 474k
Rickie Fowler, PGA/ex-OSU golfer ...... 443k
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M QB/ Heisman winner ...... 299k
Toby Keith, country singer ...... 269k
Abby Wambach, women's soccer ...... 233k
AJ McCarron, Alabama QB ...... 154k
Mark Clayton, ex-OU/NFL WR ...... 114k
Brian Scalabrine, ex-NBA player...... 59k
Ryan Broyles, ex-OU/Detroit Lions WR ...... 55k
Kenny Stills, ex-OU WR ...... 44k
Dom Franks, ex-OU/NFL (Owasso/Union) DB......42k
Jordan Cuckler, YouTube singer/soccer ...... 39k
Quinn Cook, Duke basketball ...... 34.5k
Aaron Williams, Buffalo Bills DB ...... 29k
Mallory Hagan, Miss America ...... 23.6k
Tony Jefferson, ex-OU DB ...... 17k
Blake Bell, OU QB ...... 17k
Aaron Colvin, OU (Owasso) DB ...... 6,548
Kayden Stephenson, "American Idol" contestant...... 5,603
L.J. Rose, Baylor basketball ...... 3,973
Sunny Golloway, OU baseball coach ...... 1,293