‘Best Two Points I've Ever Scored:' UVM Athlete With TBI Starts Basketball Game

Josh Speidel's teammates say he worked hard to achieve an amazing comeback from a bad car wreck

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A moment on a college basketball court at the University of Vermont transcended sports Tuesday night, as student athletes paused to mark a dramatic personal accomplishment by a teammate.

"I'm still on cloud nine," said UVM senior Josh Speidel, reflecting on the two points he scored in the opening seconds of the Catamounts' senior night game.

Speidel was a top basketball recruit for UVM, but before graduating high school in 2015, a near-fatal car wreck left him with a traumatic brain injury.

At first, doctors thought he'd be in a nursing home the rest of his life, struggling even to read, the athlete said.

"No one thought I'd be here," Speidel recalled.

With a lot of physical therapy, the 6'7" Indiana native made it to campus. He became a fixture at Patrick Gym, cheering for the Catamounts — who never treated him as anything but a full-fledged teammate.

Speidel will graduate in May, despite lingering physical challenges like a tremor in his arm.

"There's always someone out there who's going through something harder," Speidel observed, in response to a remark from NECN and NBC10 Boston about how he doesn't seem to spend much time feeling sorry for himself.

Here's how that dramatic moment went down: The Cats let their opponents from Albany win possession at tip-off and score an uncontested basket.

In return, Albany then let UVM have the ball, so Speidel could make the layup he's still pinching himself over.

"Best two points I've ever scored," Speidel said Wednesday.

Rivals and teammates alike joined the celebration, to thunderous applause.

"That was the happiest moment of my college career," senior player Everett Duncan said following Tuesday night's game.

It capped a long road of recovery since 2014, when a doctor told Speidel and his family that he wouldn't be ale to read above a fourth-grade level ever again.

Coach John Becker remembered that five years ago, he doubted this moment would've ever been possible.

"It's through just his will and hard work that he had an opportunity to do what he did tonight — start a college basketball game and score two points," Becker told reporters in a press conference following Tuesday night's game.

It was a win for determination, and the realization of a dream that was delayed for a Catamount who promises to be a fan forever.

"I'm going to go back to being the biggest cheerleader on the bench for these guys," Speidel said of his UVM teammates.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy honored Speidel on the Senate floor Tuesday, describing him as the "personification of perseverance, determination dedication and hope."

"I know my fellow Vermonters who are at these games, and I know there will be very few dry eyes that are in the house," he said.

Speidel and the Catamounts received kudos college basketball legend Dick Vitale, among others.

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