Oregon teen doesn’t let cerebral palsy stop his hoop dreams


LONGVIEW, Wash. (KOIN) — Jerrod Strong is a senior at a high school in Washington who loves sports.

“I’d be a 3-sport athlete if I could,” the 17-year-old told KOIN 6 News. “Whatever season it was was my favorite sport, but now it’s basketball, for sure.”

For years, Jerrod has helped the baseball, basketball and football teams. But then, it was his time to shine.

“I just love the sound of the ball hitting the floor and the ball hitting the net,” he said earlier in the day. “Tonight I [was] able to experience it in a game.”

Jerrod is the middle child in a set of triplets who wore born prematurely. He suffered brain bleeds after birth, which caused cerebral palsy and affects the motor skills on his right side arm and leg.

After a lifetime of encouragement from his mom, Brenda — “We’ve always told Jerrod that he could do whatever he wanted, we’ve never treated him differently” — to his best friend Marcus, the basketball team captain, Jerrod got to play with the team.

Rally Wallace, the co-head coach for RA Long basketball, told KOIN 6 News Jerrod wanted to be more involved with the team this season.

“We decided that he would suit up for the games and he would do dribbling on the side during warm-ups and dribbling and shooting on the side during practices,” Wallace said in an email.

That led to a chat with Woodland coach Andrew Johnson. They decided to run a simulated play before the opening tip and give Jerrod the chance to be on the court and score.

“It’s a huge night for me,” Jerrod said. “I [got] to start for the first time. I [got] to start with Marcus and the other guys.”

It was a night that meant the world to him, as he lived out his dream in an RA Long lumberjacks jersey. And not only did he get a chance to suit up and start, but he also scored.

“I don’t know if I jumped or screamed or both, but it was great,” Jerrod’s mom Brenda Strong said. “To look at his face, it was absolutely priceless, that was it. It was my miracle.”

Brenda said she thinks her son’s story sends a message to other kids.

“You see a lot of people miss opportunities because they think there’s something holding them back, and there shouldn’t be. These kids can do whatever they want.”

Coach Wallace said Jerrod is an inspiration to the team.

“We all see how hard he works, his dedication and relentless desire to improve. We can count you how many times he has fallen down… but he always gets back up and goes back after it!!” Wallace wrote.

Jerrod admitted he was a bit nervous, but only because he had never done this before. But he’s put in the work — he said last February he couldn’t even stand in place and dribble.

It’s different now.

“I can only dribble with the one hand because of my cerebral palsy but other than that I’m just a normal kid. I can’t do full contact basketball but there’s nothing stopping me from dribbling down the court and shooting the ball.”

And, he said, it does send a message to other people.

“You can do anything you want to. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do anything. If you think you can do it and you want to do it, go get it.”