BOISE, Idaho — Ninth-grader Houlton Price hovers around the 3-point line in the first quarter of the junior varsity game Thursday afternoon at Riverglen Junior High School in Boise.
His teammates thunder down the court, with Hillside players in hot pursuit. A teammate pauses, slowing the play, and tosses Houlton the ball.
Houlton takes aim and fires.
"We work well," said teammate Grayson Barrutia, 14. "We know how to get the ball to Houlton when he wants the ball. We're a good team."
Houlton, 15, has autism and has loved basketball since he was small. "A long time," he says. He's played with the Grizzlies for two years.
He plays in the first quarter of every game, and referees and the opposing team know what to do when Houlton has the ball.
"He just stands there, and the other kids back off," says Riverglen varsity coach Tom Unger. "Kudos to the other seven schools. It's really cool."
As for his teammates, Houlton is just a member of their team.
"I've known Houlton since sixth grade," says Charlie Chaloupsky, 14. "He really helps us. He pretty much points out we all have weaknesses, that we all have something to work on.
"He kind of inspires us to play that much harder."
Teresa Price said her son's teammates don't know rare their attitude is.
"They have no idea that not all kids are like that," she said.
Last year, Houlton made 50 percent of his 3-pointers. This year, it's a little lower. Still, she says, "He's out there. Kids get him the ball, and when he makes (a basket), the gym erupts."
The teamwork comes naturally, says junior varsity coach Joe Carmony. "It shows that winning isn't the main goal. It's playing together and having a good time."
That said, the team has had a respectable 10-3 season. Their last game is Friday against Les Bois.
"We've known each other for so long, we know what we can do with each other," Grayson says. "We know what Houlton can do. We use his awesomeness to our advantage."
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com