Jamestown junior running the offense
Jamestown’s Kerry Kardosz, 17, started playing basketball when she was 10, and she’s pretty good at it now. She’s fast on her feet, quick with her hands, and though Kerry only stands 5-foot-1, she’s a presence on the court.
Kerry, a special-education student and junior at North Kingstown High, plays point guard on the Skippers’ unified basketball team.
“We’re very lucky to have her,” coach Pete Maroni said.
According to Maroni, the point guard position is hard to master, and on past teams, the assignment has usually gone to a regular-education athlete.
Regular- and special-education students play together on coed teams in the unified sports program, which was started four years ago by Special Olympics Rhode Island and the state interscholastic league. The goal, according to Special Olympics, is to promote “meaningful inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities.”
This is the third year that North Kingstown has participated in the unified sports program.
This season, two foreign exchange students have joined the team and are giving the hoops squad an international flavor.
Mella Perleberg, 16, a sophomore from Hanover, Germany, and Lorenza D’Intino, 18, a junior from Austa, Italy, are both regular education students. Both girls speak English well.
“I think everyone’s enjoying it,” Maroni said. ‘The two exchange students are kind of quiet. We made a big effort to include them.”
Mella, who started learning English in third grade in Germany, said the unified basketball team has given her an opportunity to meet special-education students. She never had that chance before.
“I like the idea of helping students that are disabled,” she said. “In Germany, the schools with special kids are separate. I like it that here the kids are within the schools.”
Lorenza said the unified team offered her a chance to become involved in an after-school activity.
“I felt like I had to do something,” she said. “I wanted to do a sport, and it’s nice to do a sport and also help people.”
The regular students also help the special-education students improve their skills. The team practices Tuesday right after school is dismissed. During a recent session, about 18 students were at practice working in teams on bounce passes and cross-court passes. Then they worked on another drill meant to teach the student-athletes to drive all the way in to the basket.
“Want to do our little exercise?” Maroni said.
Hands immediately shot up, as students volunteered to try their skills in one-on-one battles to the hoop.
Maroni, standing under one basket, threw the ball out towards the far hoop. Two students chased it down. The one who reined in the ball turned around and tried to drive to the basket closer to Maroni for a layup. The other player tried to defend.
Every time a player pulled up for a long jump shot, Maroni pressed, “Keep driving to the hoop. Don’t let up.”
During her turn, Kerry showed why she has earned a role running the offense – she beat everybody for the loose ball. Asked about her speed, she agreed she is pretty fast and gets a lot of steals.
Kerry played on the Lawn Avenue School basketball team when she was in middle school. She is the daughter of Donald and Kim Kardosz. Kerry was born in West Warwick and she moved to Jamestown when she was “little.” She attended both island schools.
Her older sister is also a basketball player who stands 5 feet 1 inch tall. Kerry says playing with her sibling has helped develop her game. Practicing with her sister has helped her offense, and she likes to go in for a layup better than taking a long jumper.
But it’s not just about competition for Kerry. She likes the social part of team sports and said unified basketball gives her a chance to see friends. She also belongs to North Kingstown Special Olympics where she’s played on the basketball, bowling, softball and track teams. Kerry said she will compete at the summer games in June at the University of Rhode Island. She is entering the track and field events and expects to run the 100-meter dash.
According to Kerry, the big rivalry for North Kingstown’s basketball team is Coventry. “They’re good,” she said.
While Kerry does start some games, Maroni doesn’t really use a starting five. “We’re trying to get everyone to play,” he said. “We’re divided up in ability level.”
The team has won a lot of games since its inception, but winning isn’t really the main goal, Maroni says. The chief objective is to see everybody gets an opportunity.
The team is 2-1. The Skippers defeated Exeter-West Greenwich in its home opening, but lost to Coventry on March 20, 26-24. They bounced back with a 13-point win at South Kingstown.
Maroni said the South Kingstown students came out and supported the unified basketball teams. “We had a great atmosphere. The place was packed, and the gym was rocking. I take my hats off to them. It was a great place to play.”
Maroni couldn’t remember the score, so he called over to Chace Maine, 17, who was sitting on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“What was the score, Chace?”
Chace knew: “38-25,” he said.
Chace was one of the high scorers in the game. He plays forward and chipped in four baskets for a total of eight points.
He is a sophomore and a specialeducation student at North Kingstown and said the team doesn’t often have a crowd cheering at the games as they did at South Kingstown High.
“It was unusual,” he said.