LAKE ZURICH, Ill. -- For as long as he can remember, Andrew Koppel loved basketball. Since freshman year, he never missed a Lake Zurich home game and got as close to the action as he could.
"As a mom with a son with special needs, you worry about your child being accepted," says Courtney Carlson. She knew her son's autism would prevent him from making the lineup, but Lake Zurich's basketball coach took notice of the kid who loved the game and invited him to be the manager.
And just like that, Andrew had his own courtside chair.
"Sometimes, when we're struggling, he's always still clapping and saying, ‘Come on, play hard! You guys got this!’” says teammate Will Tucker.
For the first time in his life, Andrew felt like he was where he belonged.
"Just to see everybody else accept him for who he is and to be treated so well by his coach and teammates is incredible," Carlson shares.
During Lake Zurich's Senior Basketball night game, the team made certain Andrew got his own moment in the spotlight and cheered him on as a starter for the game.
"He's usually cheering for us,” says Will. "So it was nice for us to be able to cheer for him."
The team missed the state playoffs by one game this week, but they won in a different way with Andrew as part of the team, proving that it's not always the best player that becomes the heart and soul of a team.