​​​​​​​West Memphis Student Steals Hearts and Basketballs

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (localmemphis.com) - The rules of the game of basketball have changed, at least for the Blue Imps of West Memphis Junior High. One young man on the autistic spectrum has stolen the hearts of a community and even school rivals.

Harden Spears loves basketball. He's executed some pretty good moves on the court, but he's also put some moves on the hearts of the folks around him.

It's why 5th quarters are official when his school team plays a game.

Harden hung up his baseball cleats a few years ago because he said he hated playing outfield. He exchanged the cleats for basketball sneakers.

Like many teenagers, Harden has his favorite teams; the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Braves, and the West Memphis High School Blue Devils. And he's got plenty of jokes.

Unlike most teenagers, Harden is on the autism spectrum and has seizures.

"If there's an assembly that's out of the norm, you've got to let him know in advance we're going to change this up, because if you don't and it's out of the normal routine, it's a bad day," said Bud Spears, Harden's dad. 

All that factors into what makes this remarkable kid a game changer.

"All the students know him," said Amber Spears, Harden's mom. "The teachers look after him. 'Harden where are you going, what are you doing?’ They just love him and we couldn't ask for a better school."

Even opposing teams love Harden. So much so that since last year, most of them agreed to a "5th quarter" of play time.

"You get to the last quarter, that's Harden's time,” says Jackson Rains, Harden's coach. “That was the best part because Harden was able to get in there, doesn't matter if we were winning or losing, Harden was able to put up the points.”

Harden saved his season high for this year's final basketball game.

"Let me tell you, I put 24 my last game of the season," said Harden.

But his inspiration is always on.

“As I look back on my career, some of the things I'll be most proud of are Harden’s experience here at West. He's a pure delight," said Chad Martin, West Memphis Jr. High School principal.

Harden usually averages about 10 to 12 points a game.

Harden’s specialty is 3 pointers, and he's even saved his team the jaws of defeat, earning him his own cheering section.

 


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