More than 10 years ago, adapted sports coach Mark Miller noticed a first grader shooting baskets in the gym from a long distance for his age.
He asked the boy to try it from a wheelchair and the youngster began to hit baskets sitting down while learning to move in the chair and dribble.
Little did Miller know his new prodigy was sight impaired and could barely see the basket.
Twelve years and many adapted sports football, basketball and handball games later, Dontrey Hunt is graduating from Tucker High School after becoming the leader of his adapted sports teams.
“I had no idea Dontrey’s disability was impaired sight,” said Miller. “I was amazed that at his age at the time he could shoot and hit baskets from the free-throw line. It made it more amazing when I realized what it took for him to make the baskets.”
Hunt’s sight problem is caused by retinitis pigmentosa, astigmatism and scarring on his eyes from birth.
“The doctor said my sight never developed as a kid,” Hunt said. “Playing sports helped me work hard to see and helped my mind work with my eyes to get my sight where it is today. It would never have developed this far without getting involved in adapted sports.”
Hunt began by using the backboard in basketball because he could see it better and gradually began to find the goal itself.
“I could not see the net at all and using the backboard made it possible to hit shots,” Hunt said. “I was able to begin making out the goal and was able to make baskets without just using the backboard.”
Handball, which is played on a basketball court with players throwing the ball at a soccer-like goal, was a bit harder because Hunt had to find the goalie to know where to throw the ball.
“I would find the goalie and then throw it as hard as I could toward him,” said Hunt.
Miller said most goalies would move because they didn’t want to be hit by one of Hunt’s throws. “I wouldn’t want to play goalie against him,” Miller laughed.
It took Hunt some time to learn how to play the games, but he got help from older teammates and Miller.
“When I first started I had no sense of teamwork and was lucky I was pretty good at it,” Hunt said. “I was also one of the slowest guys in the wheelchairs and everyone would roll past me so fast.”
Hard work paid off for Hunt as he eventually became faster than most in the chairs. He also began to get the hang of teamwork and communicating.
He moved up to the varsity Silver Streaks after just two years with the junior varsity and played 10 years on the varsity club. He also led the teams in scoring as a senior.
“I realized after several years how much the older players taught me how to play the games,” Hunt said. “Then I began to notice I was teaching the younger players myself.”
Some of Hunt’s fondest memories over the years was getting to play at Gwinnett Arena in the state championship game on more than one occassion.
“It was exciting to be in that big building with all the lights and television cameras,” said Hunt. “People saw me on television and would call. I never thought I would get to see myself on television. The only problem was it took me four quarters (games are six quarters) to get over the butterflies in my stomach.”
Graduation is nearing at Tucker High School and Hunt, a music lover, has plans to attend the Atlanta Institute of Music.
“I love all kinds of music from R and B to rap to rock and roll,” said Hunt. “If I see someone has the music in them I always pull it out. Singing and dancing are some of my favorite things to do.”
“Whatever Dontrey decides to do in life I know he will be successful,” said Miller.