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East Liverpool basketball players surprise team manager with gifts

An local high school basketball team is showing one of their own how much he's appreciated.

East Liverpool boys’ basketball team manager Jonathan Russell means a lot to his teammates.

In his first year, he's developed strong friendships with the players.

“He always has a smile on his face, comes to practice every day, rain or shine. He's always here,” said Logan Dawson.

Jonathan has autism. He didn't make the team during tryouts, but his effort on and off the court still shines through. Whether it's collecting basketballs, running the score board or just cheering on the team, his presence is felt.

“He has a love for the game of basketball. He really tried. He plays every day. We knew we wanted him around the program and when he came he exceeded our expectations,” said Coach Nate Conley.

During the season of giving, seniors Evan Dieringer, Robbie Davis, Logan Dawson and Aaron Bombich decided to do something nice for Jonathan. With help from the rest of the team, they showed him how much they care.

“They got me Christmas presents,” Jonathan said.

And not just any Christmas presents: gifts full of Potter pride including an East Liverpool hooded sweatshirt and two pairs of Potter blue basketball shoes so he can fit in with the team he loves so much.

“We're blessed to have him. He's here all the time and doesn't get the chance, so he really deserves it like this. It's simply amazing,” Aaron Bombich said.

Coach Conley says that no matter the score in the games to come, moments like this make him proud of his team.

“I told them it doesn't matter about wins and losses. We're going to compete every day on the basketball court. But what you did that day, that was something special," Conley said. “He's no different than anyone else. He loves just being here and being a part of the team.”

“They're my best friends,” Jonathan said.

Jonathan is a freshman and he says that he plans on staying team manager for the next three years.

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