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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 8:56 PM
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Hippos finish Unified season

Hippos finish Unified season
Chris Gottschalk, Hutto High School’s UIL Unified basketball coach, poses with the second place trophy after an Around the Watercooler interview on campus. Photo by Jason Hennington

SAN ANTONIO — Hutto High School celebrated the return of its state runner-up Unified boys basketball team.

The Hippos played in the state championship Tuesday, Feb. 27, against Converse Judson at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Hutto fell 49-44 in overtime to the Rockets.

“To take these kids, which most of them have never been out of Hutto, to a college campus and play in a college atmosphere, with announcers, cheerleaders and music, was phenomenal,” Coach Chris Gottschalk said. “They had a great experience and good time.”

Unified basketball is a University Interscholastic League event that places general education athletes with students with intellectual disabilities on the same court.

Gottschalk said UIL rules require a balance of three players with intellectual disabilities and two players without intellectual disabilities on the floor at all times.

The coach said Unified basketball gives individuals with special needs a chance to compete in a more advanced level of sports than programs such as the Special Olympics.

“It’s high-level basketball,” Gottschalk said. “It’s a lot of fun. The idea of it is they want to blend them in, so when you’re watching the game, you can’t tell who is who.”

According to Gottschalk, athletes from both general education and special education benefited from participating in the Unified season.

He said a select group of general education hoopers rose up to as team leaders at practice and in games. Gottschalk described their leadership as increasing the team’s bond.

“They didn’t see the kids as special ed or not, they treated them as a brother and teammate,” he said. “Those kids just added a new friend list to their friends.”

Gottschalk said the majority of the offseason will be spent finding new players since most of the team members were seniors.

In addition, he said he hopes more schools in the area sign up to play UIL Unified basketball.

“I would love that in every school, in Pflugerville, Round Rock, in other cities to make this program grow,” Gottschalk said. “We’re setting the gold standard in this area.”

This was Gottschalk’s first season coaching UIL Unified basketball.

To view a recorded interview with the coach, watch the latest episode of Around the Watercooler.


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