South Oak Cliff High School has another championship team on its campus. The Special Olympics basketball team went undefeated this season and brought home two titles.
The team's coach, Ellis Wheatfall, tells us the Bear Cave is proud of its newest champions.
South Oak Cliff High School is known as “The Mecca” for a reason. There’s no such thing as facing an opponent alone. The bleachers on game day show without a doubt the community has your back.
“It’s packed in here. The band is here. It’s a great environment. They score, they cheer. Everyone is in a great mood,” said Wheatfall. “We are one. So, everyone is included.”
Coach Wheatfall runs the special Olympics program at the school. Many athletes in the program are also in the District's FLS Program - for students with moderate to severe cognitive delays. In addition, many FLS students make up Dallas ISD’s D-League, for athletes with special needs.
“The idea of special needs students doing special things means the world to me,” said Wheatfall.
Certainly, his team has done something very special. And they’ve done it twice.
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“We won the D-League in Dallas ISD, and we also won the special Olympics Sunbelt Division,” Wheatfall said, beaming with pride.
The players say they’ve learned the importance of dedication.
“We come in here every day, we practice, we put the time in to get better and win the games,” said student-athlete, Tre’vonne Kilson.
Wheatfall said the job comes with its share of challenges, but the satisfaction far outweighs them all.
“When I see the smiles on their faces at the end of the game and they’re competing and they’re able to play, it makes me teary-eyed sometimes,” he said.
The players said Coach Wheatfall’s commitment doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Thank you for making us number one,” Kilson said.
As for the players, Wheatfall said he and so many others in the South Oak Cliff Community have high expectations for these students.
“I want them to know that the sky is the limit,” he said. “Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Show them what you can do.”
Many Special Olympic and D-League athletes will soon transition into track and field season. Wheatfall said they expect to excel there as well.