Mead senior Benjy Migliuri wanted to be a basketball player. If he gets a chance, he wants to be a coach someday.
He desired to be around the game so much that he struck up a conversation with Mead boys coach Glenn Williams last year.
“I asked him if there was anything I could do help him out,” Migliuri said.
High school managers are near and dear to my heart for multiple reasons. I was a manager, my wife was a manager, and my daughters followed us down that path.
I met Benjy last year. He was there for Mead’s run deep into the postseason, culminating with a fifth-place finish at state and a trophy.
What tickled me most was watching Benjy from a distance. You could see the joy on his face with every made basket, with every victory.
It’s much more work for Benjy to be a manager than it was for me – or most managers for that matter. You see, Benjy has been quadriplegic since birth.
At Mead’s games, he sits on the sidelines in his wheelchair, keeping track of all the made and missed shots of both teams.
It’s difficult for him to move his fingers, hands and arms. He has limited strength.
“He goes through more (difficulties) in a day than I will go through in a lifetime,” Williams said.
Migliuri has had three operations on his spine, the most recent two years ago. He’s been told that surgery, which included placing new metal rods in his back for better support, should be the last one in his back for a while.
He’s also had some other secondary medical issues, all of which have interrupted his schooling to a degree. But Migliuri, 18, is on track to graduate.
One of his other duties helping Williams last year was toting around the team’s “Passion Bucket.” Williams asked his players to write a note and put it in the bucket before each game, explaining how they planned to bring passion to the court. Many times Williams had Benjy read a few of the comments.
Williams didn’t bring out the bucket at the start of this season. Then he got a text message from Benjy after a game last month.
“It said, ‘I think it’s time to bring out the Passion Bucket,’ ” Williams said, recalling the text.
So there the bucket was at practice Monday. Williams was considering renaming it the “Toughness Bucket.”
It’s been a difficult year personally for Benjy. His father, Don Migliuri, who played basketball at Gonzaga University in the 1960s, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year.
Benjy’s father started at center and did the first jump ball in the first game played in Kennedy Pavilion (later known as The Kennel) in 1968.
In Don Migliuri’s initial treatment it appeared that radiation and chemotherapy, combined with a daily diet including 94 nutritional supplements, had arrested the cancer. But it flared up again.
“He was beating it,” Benjy said. “Then he had an MRI in December and we learned that it had come back. He’s not given much time. It’s a bumpy roller coaster right now. I’ve had several meltdowns. Basketball is the one thing I can escape to.”
Benjy Migliuri is a hero to Williams.
“He’s a reminder to me of how often we forget what different people are going through in their lives,” Williams said. “He brings unbelievable inspiration.”
It’s being part of something that means most to Benjy.
“It’s really special to be part of the team,” he said. “I’ve been told I can’t do a lot of things, so it makes me feel like I belong some place.”