KETTLE FALLS, Wash. -- The Kettle Falls High Bulldogs are a cheerful pack, and there is one member of the school’s JV basketball team who seems to specialize in producing a smile.
Skylar Cherrey has a developmental disability but when it comes to his love of the game, he far outpaces his peers.
"He absolutely just loves basketball and everything about it," said Skylar’s teammate, Kash Sly. "He always came to every game and then finally we were just like, ‘Skylar, join. You'd have a blast.’"
So, 17-year-old Skylar became number 42 on the Kettle Falls JV team.
Sly remembers Skylar’s first game well.
"He didn't want to go in because he was terrified. We're like ‘no, you'll do fine, you'll do fine,’ and he popped right up,” said Sly. “And first shot, he made it."
Skylar had a hidden talent.
“Shooting threes,” said Skylar with a big smile.
"Him and I practice at home and I guess it's really paid off because he's able to hit those three pointers really well," said Skylar’s Grandfather Dan Mischke.
Mischke and Skylar’s grandmother Kathy have raised Skylar from the time he was born.
"I just couldn't be more proud of him," said Kathy Mischke.
The proud grandparents are always in the stands rooting for Skylar. They quickly learned they are not alone.
"These people stand up for him when he makes a point. It's just heartwarming, absolutely heartwarming as a parent to see that your child is so accepted," Kathy said.
“He's not just accepted by the other players,” Dan explained,”He's protected.”
"They just watch out for him," he said.
"Like brothers," added Skylar.
His brothers know Skylar is not their most skilled player, so they - sometimes along with members of the other team - make sure Skylar gets wide-open shots.
"They'll go in and they'll actually put up a screen so Skylar can make his three pointers," said Kathy.
No matter how far his team falls behind, Coach Justin Carstens makes sure Skylar gets some game time.
"You're not going to remember the wins and losses as much as the friends and family you're going to make playing the game," said Carstens.
It seems that spirit travels with the Bulldogs. Even when Kettle Falls steps off onto someone else’s turf, they find support from the opposing school.
That is what happened during a recent game at Newport High School.
"And the Newport Varsity was just sitting there chanting, 'put Skylar in, put Skylar in,” Kash recalled.
With just seconds left in the Newport game, Skylar got his chance and drained a three-pointer just before the buzzer. It was not the game winning bucket, but that did not seem to matter much.
"If anyone is able to be around Skylar or meet him they should consider themselves lucky because he's truly a one-of-a-kind person," said Kash.
Indeed, the one-of-a-kind Skylar always seems to be offering up big hugs and huge smiles.
No matter the final score, it is clear whenever Skylar's in the game both teams win