Wes Spalding never takes a play off.
If he did, Fremont's senior point guard would hear about it from his twin brother, Wyatt.
“We'll be talking sometimes, and I'll say I don't feel like practicing,” Wes said. “He'll say, 'Dude, I would do anything just to practice.' ”
Wyatt was born with cerebral palsy and other health issues that prevent him from playing varsity sports.
He's not sitting on the sidelines, though. He's one of the top Special Olympics tennis players in the state and also competes in basketball, flag football and track. Wes is his coach.
On summer days when he's feeling well, Wyatt has been known to work on his tennis game in the morning, shoot hoops in the afternoon and then finish up with a weight session. When they were younger, playing one-on-one in the driveway wasn't enough. The boys would get up at 5:30 a.m. and ride their bikes to the YMCA to shoot.
“He always tells me I need to practice more. He says I don't practice enough by myself,” Wes said. “He always pushed me to work out or lift or go shoot hoops some more.”
Wyatt loves basketball and some day would love to coach. Fremont coach Mark Williams says few know the game better.
Wyatt plays intramural basketball and has stayed close to the varsity football and basketball programs as a student manager for four years. All of his buddies play, and Fremont's homecoming king has many because of his positive outlook.
“Everybody loves Wyatt,” Williams said. “He never lets obstacles stand in his way.”
He's facing another right now, which is why Wes is playing without his biggest fan down the stretch. Wyatt has been fitted with a halo to stretch and straighten his spine. Surgery he was supposed to have in St. Louis on Thursday to relieve increasing problems with scoliosis has been delayed a few weeks by RSV, a respiratory virus. He's already undergone more than 20 operations in his life after he and his brother were born two months premature.
The time apart has been tough on both boys; Wyatt is missing games and Wes is missing his brother, although they talk every day.
“It feels weird, he's always just been there,” Wes said. “Now it kind of feels lonely.”
Wes, who wears No. 0, just like his brother, had the biggest game of his career while Wyatt has been gone, scoring 23 points in a 64-60 win over Omaha Burke. He scored 11 points in the final period, including a huge 3-pointer as well as six free throws in the final minute.
Wyatt got to see it on tape, but it wasn't the same for them.
Wyatt noted improvement in Wes' free throws. He is Wes' most honest critic, which his brother appreciates, although he doesn't agree that he should shoot more. Wyatt said he's learned from his brother, too. How to stay calm in close games and not get frustrated. Just to play smart.
“I just like to watch him play,” Wyatt said. “He plays point guard, and I play point guard. I just pick up what he does, and I try to do it in my games.”
Wes averages eight points a game and five assists and is shooting 55 percent from 3-point range (24 for 43) for the 10-7 Tigers, ranked 10th in the Top 10. He hopes to play in college, and Wyatt never lets him forget it. That's why he's always pushing him to practice.
It's made a difference.
“Wes is a coach's dream,” Williams said. “We could set out a practice plan and not be there and Wes is going to go through it as hard as he can. He has a remarkable work ethic. He plays for Wyatt; he never wants to let Wyatt down.”
Wyatt has his own plans for college. He's going to Midland University, and might see if he could get a part-time job helping out with the basketball team, maybe at the scoring table.
He admits that it's tough to always sit the bench, unless some day it would be as a coach.
That's why Williams arranged for Wyatt to make a special appearance in Fremont's opener against Columbus, before his back problems became worse.
Wyatt suited up at the end, and got some chances to score. Despite all the bombs he's sunk at the YMCA, none of his shots dropped. But the opportunity to play together, something the brothers never thought would happen, far surpassed that disappointment.
“That was awesome. I've always dreamed of playing high school basketball,” Wyatt said. “It was really cool to play with my brother and everything.”
As Wyatt recovers, Wes and the Tigers will try to fulfill Wyatt's dream for the team.
“He told everybody before he left, 'I'll be back for state,' ” Williams said. “That's what we're hoping, that we have the opportunity to play at state for Wyatt.”