MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - It's easy to be committed to the team when you're the one scoring all the points. But what if you're not? Erik Daneri plays an important role on Sparkman High School's basketball team and recently, he got his chance on the court.
"We need him like we need everybody else in our program," said Coach Jamie Coggins.
Erik has loved basketball since he was a boy
"Since he was itty bitty, trying to dunk with a Fisher Price hoop," his parents told us.
Erik certainly isn't short on commitment. He has autism, and the game just moves a little too fast.
"I know if I couldn't play I would do something like this and sign up to be manager," he said.
"He takes it really, really hard," said his mother, Sandra. "We tell him all the time, Erik it's just a game."
"He's one of us. And that's how we treat Erik. He's one of our family members," said Coach Coggins.
So on Senior Night, rather than just honor those who fill up the stat sheet, the coach wanted to honor the one who fills it out. Coach Coggins asked Erik if he would be willing to play, but initially he wasn't sure. After several days of thought, Erik said he would play under two conditions. First, he wanted to choose his jersey number. Second, Erik didn't want to go in the game early to avoid bringing the team down.
"He said 'Coach, I want you to put me in during the last 30 seconds to a minute of the game'," Coggins told us.
Winning just means too much to Erik, and he just wanted a chance to be on the floor.
The moment was just right and with a little over a minute left, the whistle blew. Coach Coggins turned around and yelled "ED, let's go. Let's go ED."
The crowd went wild.
"Entering the game for Sparkman, number 34, Erik Daneri," the announcer said.
Four years of commitment for this one moment in time. But it's what happened next that will live forever.
"We got a rebound and our big man inside Willie Eutsey found him cutting down the lane," Coggins said.
A teammate grabs the rebound, gives it to him again and Erik put his shot up. "The ball sat on the front rim for what seemed like minutes," Coach Coggins said. It's a shot Erik has dreamed of making his entire life, and there was never a doubt it would go in. The gym erupted in celebration, even Huntsville high players and fans stood to applaud. It wasn't the game winning shot, but it might be the most important two points of the season.
"He got on the floor, he got his shot and he made his shot, and it was awesome!" Coggins told his team in the locker room.
A night Erik will never forget, proving when you commit to a team, the team will commit to you. Erik Daneri is a true winner.