Athlete of the Month: Ben Ellenby ’19 and Kendall Wright ’19

Nina Shearrill, Business manager

Kendall Wright ‘19 and Benjamin Ellenby ‘19 started playing Special Olympics basketball at Park Junior High School in the seventh grade. Over the years, they have learned the recipe to having a successful team, not just in the way they play, but in the way they interact with each other and the student body.

“Although we might not be the most athletic of teams and we might not have the knowledge, that’s only half the battle,” Ellenby said. “But we have a lot of chemistry, because we have been on the court working together for so long.”

They have a bond that has aged well over the years and they have started to see each other as extended family, each as valuable as the next.

“We are more like a family than a team,” Special Olympics Basketball Coach Emma Colangelo said. “I have watched new bonds form and old bonds continue to grow.”

As these bonds have grown over the years, the trust and confidence these teammates have in each other truly shows.

“We are all talented and no one can say or do anything that can change that,” fellow teammate William Medina ‘19 said.

No matter their skills or ability levels, everyone can find some way in which they can help the team.

“I have fun with all of them,” Wright said. “They look after me and I look after them; they make me feel better.”

The positive relationships between the coaches and athletes has benefitted the team overall, making their interactions much smoother, even with the size of their team.

“We have 43 players and they all work together to make each other better basketball players and better people,” Colangelo said. “Every single player supports each other and encourages each other.”

Even off the court, some of Wright’s friends and teammates have helped refine his basketball skills over the summer, while eventually noticing his talent on the court.

“My man Kendall is like a baller over here,” Medina said.

Kendall displays how there are more key ingredients to playing basketball well and being a team player than just luck and talent.

“Practicing, trying your hardest and good sportsmanship are all keys for a good team,” Wright said. “Even when we don’t win, I always say ‘good game, good team effort.’”

here is more to the secret sauce than that, however; all you have to do is look under the bun. The support that comes from families can make all the difference.

“My dad watches the NBA and he taught me a lot about basketball,” Wright said. “We’ve even played together and he beats me sometimes.”

In playing basketball, he found something he loved.

“He got on that court and we saw something in him,” his father, Kendale Wright said. “Just a burst of energy.”

Although being a student athlete can create a stressful schedule, Wright’s mom, Lekia Wright, has helped him deal with it since the beginning.

“She taught me how to be confident,” Kendall said. “She helped me calm down when I had trouble with something and she would help me follow through and see it to the end.”

The Wrights continue to motivate him in basketball due to his success with the sport.

“When he does a sport that he loves and excels at, it is thrilling,” Lekia said. “As long as he’s happy doing what he’s doing, it motivates him. We support what he does as long as he is proud of it.”

Ellenby, this issue’s second AoTM, brings more to the potluck of what makes a good team: the support of the student body.
“When looking out into the crowd during the Pack the Place game, it feels amazing,” Ellenby said. “I see a sea of people in every direction. I really like it.”

The student body doesn’t just energize Ellenby and Wright on the court; the love shown to these student-athletes carries over into their interactions throughout a normal school day.

“Random people say ‘you’re on the basketball team’ in the hallway or they remember seeing me from the Pack the Place game,” Ellenby said. “I feel very special. Of all the members on the team, they decided to remember me.”

Playing basketball has allowed Ellenby to add spice and variety to his friend group.

“I think I have gained a more diverse group of friends,” he said. “ If it wasn’t for basketball, I wouldn’t be as close to the people I am now.”