Davan (pronounced Day-vin) Overton can't play football. He can't participate in boxing, wrestling, martial arts or any other contact sport. Davan has a rare condition called Dandy-Walker Syndrome. The condition essentially consists of a benign but irremovable cyst on Davan's spine that slowed some of his cognitive development and altered his motor skills greatly.
Football and the aforementioned contact sports could prove lethal for Davan if he played them as the cyst is very sensitive to contact. He can and does play basketball. While basketball certainly has contact and sometimes very hard contact, Davan can play under controlled conditions. Whenever his Mapleton (Ore.) High School team is on either side of a blowout, Davan can play.
His teammates do their best to get Davan on the stat sheet. He gets multiple shot attempts when he plays. Mapleton head coach Aaron Decker always tells the opposing coach about Davan before the game so everyone knows what to expect. Defenses soften to let Davan shoot. Unfortunately, Davan's own body often betrays him. The effects of Dandy-Walker prevent him from shooting with good form and his shots miss wildly.
Mapleton hosted Falls City (Ore.) High School in this season's opening game. The contest was close for awhile and it looked as if Davan wouldn't play, but Mapleton asserted itself in the second half and pulled away. Coach Decker put Davan in the game with about three minutes to go. Every other player on Mapleton's eight-man roster had scored that night. Davan's teammates desperately wanted to get him a bucket.
Several shots went up. None went in. Davan took what he thought would be his last shot with about 10 seconds to play. Falls City guard and top scorer Ethan McConnell grabbed the rebound. As Davan turned to run down the court to play defense, he heard an unfamiliar voice. Ethan yelled, "Davan!" As he turned around responding to the voice, a perfect chest pass landed in Davan's hands.
With mere seconds left, Davan settled behind the 3-point line and took the shot. In the words of Keith Olbermann, "From way downtown...Bang!" The buzzer sounded and the Mapleton gym erupted with cheers. Ethan had delivered the greatest assist of his young career. It wasn't staged or planned. It was sportsmanship at its best - spontaneous and life-affirming.
Ethan's dad told The Oregonian, "You try to raise your kids with some morals and some faith. You try to give them a mishmash of everything they might need in the world. But you can't dictate which way they turn. It's just such a wonderful thing to see a kid, especially your own kid, make a decision like that, to do something for someone else without really even thinking about it."
Davan and Ethan were technically opponents that night, but behaved like teammates. It is often said that character is what you do when no one is watching. That's not necessarily an absolute. Sometimes character has to be shown with all of the lights on and everyone in the house watching.
The Oregonian published a video essay of Davan and Ethan's story which can be viewed by clicking here. Be sure to share this one with your friends as well. Young people are still doing great things around us. We just need to open our eyes and look.