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Men’s basketball team holds clinic with Hussman Center

Hussman Center for Adults with Autism student Tom Whalen throws a bounce pass to Men's Basketball player Byron Hawkins during Thursday's basketball clinic.

Hussman Center for Adults with Autism student Tom Whalen throws a bounce pass to men’s basketball player Byron Hawkins during Thursday’s basketball clinic.

Towson University’s men’s basketball team will hold its annual “Autism Awareness” game on Saturday, but the Tigers got a little bit of a head start on the festivities on Thursday.

Members of the team spent some time before practice putting on a clinic with some students from Towson University’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Pat Skerry, whose son has been identified on the autism spectrum, came up with the idea of holding an “Autism Awareness” game every February.

In conjunction with Saturday’s game, the Hussman Center reached out to Skerry to see if he and his team could run a small clinic for its students.

“It’s been really great because it looks like a bunch of guys coming out, having fun and shooting hoops together,” said Hussman Center Program Supervisor Rufus Platt. “That what we like to see — natural, social opportunities like this. This has been really great.”

The clinic featured drills run between players and students, a group shootaround, a round of the popular game “Knockout,” and a scrimmage between Towson and the Hussman Center, which ended in an upset with “Team Hussman” coming out on top 9-2.

And while the event was created for the Hussman Center students, it was the basketball team that couldn’t stop smiling.

“We’ve got some really great players and even better kids,” Skerry said. “It makes you feel good as a coach because we’re paid to win games and graduate players, but hopefully we’re teaching them something. Our guys are good guys; they really are.”

Thursday’s basketball clinic is just one of a number of programs and trips the Hussman Center offers its students. Other programs include cooking classes, comedy workshops, improv classes, fitness programs and social groups.

Platt said that along with providing classes for adults on the autism spectrum, the center encourages students from Towson University to help mentor in classes as well.

“The Hussman Center really serves a dual purpose in providing these programs to the community,” Platt said. “Because we have TU students that are in a related course about mentorship and disability awareness, they can come into our programs and complete service hours they need for the class.

“Towson University students come away with real-life interactions with people on the autism spectrum and really gives them a perception shift. It really is a mutual learning situation.”

The Hussman Center, along with almost a dozen autism awareness organizations, will be present at Saturday’s Autism Awareness game at SECU Arena.

Along with the local feel to the event, many of Skerry’s colleagues in college basketball across the nation will join with their support, including Jay Bilas and ESPN’s College Gameday crew, University of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari and University of Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan will wear pins in support.

“It really makes me proud to see all the support we’ve received both locally and nationally,” Skerry said. “I’m not going to get a lot of sleep this week with trying to beat a good James Madison team this week, but [raising awareness for autism] is important. This is something that goes beyond basketball.”

Towson fell to James Madison 63-61 on Saturday after Dukes’ guard Ron Curry hit a buzzer-beater to sink the Tigers. Towson is back in action Tuesday (Feb. 10) when the Tigers travel to Philadelphia to face Drexel. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.