JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Jackson student has become the first deaf player to sign a Division 1 basketball scholarship in Mississippi.
Alexis Roberts, a 6-foot forward with more than 1,000 career points and 500 rebounds, has signed to play for the Jackson State Tigers, WAPT-TV reported.
“I feel very excited because I am the first deaf person to do that, and it’s great to make history,” Roberts said through interpreter Cheryl Keller.
Roberts was born with a percentage of hearing in both ears, but her hearing faded. Communicating has been a challenge, but Roberts was introduced to basketball when she was 12 and it changed her life.
“Picking up that basketball, it was everything to her,” Velma Patrick, Alexis’ mother, told the television station. “Basketball, you can say, gave her life.”
Roberts continued to grow as a basketball player at Mississippi School for the Deaf, under head coach Sekoe White, who was a deaf athlete himself.
White believes Roberts’ biggest impact playing for Jackson State will be off the court.
“At that level, it’s a chance to let the world know any deaf person can do it,” White said. “You just need the hard work, but sometimes the deaf people need to work a little bit extra hard, but you can make it happen and here is our proof.”
Jackson State head Coach Tomekia Reed said the coaches and players at JSU will take sign language courses to learn how to communicate with their new teammate.
“She deserves the opportunity to play for a Division 1 program — not because of her situation, she shouldn’t be limited to that,” Reed said. “She should be able to receive everything else that everybody else receives, and she doesn’t let her situation hold her back from being great.”
Roberts plans to major in physical education at Jackson State.