ROCHESTER, N.Y. – President Bush is the latest in a string of high-profile fans to call on Jason McElwain, the autistic basketball manager who drew national cheers by scoring 20 points in four minutes for his high school team.
On his way to Canandaigua, N.Y., Tuesday to speak at Medicare events, Bush stopped at an airport near here and greeted McElwain — accompanied by his parents and coach — and called him "a special person."
"Our country was captivated by an amazing story on the basketball court," the president told reporters gathered on the tarmac, his arm draped around the 17-year-old senior, with Air Force One, the presidential jet, in the background. "It's the story of a young man who found his touch on the basketball court, which in turn touched the hearts of citizens all around the country."
The president joked that if his aging body would let him return to the basketball court, he'd want a lesson from McElwain.
McElwain, who because of his autism, didn't begin talking until he was five and still lacks some social skills. Despite suffering from the little understood developmental disorder, he has served as all-around motivator for the Greece Athena High School basketball team, in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb.
Last month, the coach had him suit up for the final home game of the season and put him in with four minutes to go when the team opened a large lead. In his first and only appearance for the team, the 5-foot-6 manager hit six 3-point shots and a 2-pointer and was carried off the court on his teammates' shoulders.
The jaw-dropping performance was caught on a student video and made national news. His parents have received a flood of calls from Hollywood.
Bush said he learned about McElwain from seeing him on TV.
"I wept, just like a lot of other people did," he said, as McElwain beamed beside him.