The University of Michigan men’s basketball team will compete this weekend in the Final Four with a little extra help on their side, but it won’t be on the court.
Seventh-grader Jude Stamper from Monroe, Michigan has been a big part in helping the No. 3 seed Wolverines continue their winning streak.
Last year 12-year-old Stamper even had his own draft day signing and was officially welcomed as a member of the team.
Stamper has a condition known as Arthrogryposis Multi-Congenital disorder with Escobar Syndrome. It makes his joints so stiff, it is hard to get around.
“I am unable to play sports because of my disability,” Stamper told ABC affiliate WXYZ.
But there is another reason that Stamper remains so loyal to the university, he has undergone several surgeries to improve his quality of life -- performed right at the At U of M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
While Stamper is not able to actually play with his team, that has not stopped him from being a full-time contributor. An organization called TEAM Impact connects kids with chronic illnesses with college teams.
“It is a really awesome organization and I was lucky to be paired with Michigan basketball,” Stamper told WXYZ.
Jude’s mother says he inspires her every day with his can-do attitude. “I often say what you focus on, you find and focusing on positive things, even when you think it can’t happen, it really can,” Courtney Stamper told WXYZ.
Stamper was able to watch the Wolverines battle it out with Florida State last weekend in the Elite Eight match-up in Los Angeles.
“It was really exciting because I have never done anything like that before,” he said.
Now he and his family are heading to San Antonio as Michigan prepares to take on No. 11 seed Loyola.
Some have even compared him to Loyola University Chicago’s Sister Jean Delores-Smith.
Stamper said its a compliment to be linked to Sister Jean: “She seems really nice, so I am excited to meet her,” he said.
As far as this weekend’s Final Four outcome, he is predicting the Wolverines beat the Ramblers 65 to 60.