Unified Basketball

it's about empowerment and friendship

The whole gym cheered when Will sank his first basket of the game. That included everyone on John Jay’s bench and stands, and on the opposing team.

That’s Unified Basketball in a nutshell.

John Jay's much-loved sports team combines general education and special education students and results in a game that’s all about empowerment and friendship.

celebrating the seniors

"this is inclusion"

“Look around,” said Kim Piccolino, John Jay’s assistant principal and Unified Basketball coach for the last five years. She was standing courtside with Assistant Coach/Assistant Principal Mallory McDonald as the players warmed up. Students were lightly tossing the ball to each other, giving their teammates as many times as it took for them to sink a shot, and celebrating each success with high fives and big smiles. “This is inclusion. There’s nothing better than this.”

high fives and big smiles

From JayFest's Pep Rally to Senior Night at the Game

The Wolves’ first Unified Basketball game of the season was part of a supercharged, day-long celebration—it was hours after the all-school Pep Rally, during which the Unified Basketball players had run into the gym along with all of the other spring teams.

It was also the Unified Basketball team’s Senior Night.  John Jay’s gym was decorated with posters made by players’ friends. Kacie, a senior player, handed a long-stemmed rose to other players in the Class of 2023 while the fans with purple and silver pom poms cheered in the stands and on the sidelines.

Team has great community

 “This team has great community,” said Natalie, a member of the Unified team who also plays varsity basketball. “Everyone is so happy. It’s fun to be part of it.” “The competition is really healthy,” said Sara, her teammate, who plays on John Jay’s junior varsity basketball team. “It’s not stressful.”

Natalie and Sara said that they had made a lot of friends on the team. They also participate in the Best Buddies club, another opportunity at John Jay for general education and special education students to get to know each other.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Maria Mellon, John Jay's Life Skills teacher, after the game. “They worked hard, stepped up and took care of each other. This was a real game. It put pep in their step!”

In the huddle