A basketball lover’s blind ambition

Blind Basketball (WISH Photo/ Kevin Hankins)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – For basketball fans, the chance to meet or talk with Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, or University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino, would be a once in a lifetime moment. But for one Indiana college student, those guys are just a phone call away.

Not only has Bryce Weiler talked basketball with those legendary coaches, he’s even given them advice on how to win and correctly predicted the outcome of tournaments.

As a University of Evansville senior, Weiler got to sit on the bench for almost every home game – it’s something he never took for granted. Bryce says he fell in love with basketball while listening to Don Fisher call IU games on the radio as a kid.

“He described the action occurring so well on the court, it brought the pictures to life inside my head and enabled me to experience the action that was occurring on the court,” said Weiler.

Bryce was born blind.

“Being blind isn’t very much fun, and its something that I wish I could change,” said Weiler.

Being blind is something Bryce never let block his shot at being part of the game. Student Team Manager Colton O’Day regularly gives Bryce the play by play.

“Everyday I see Bryce, I realize how blessed I am that I’m able to see the game,” said O’Day.

His uncanny memory for stats and scores led to him doing commentary for some of the Aces home games.

His ability to analyze and process the game of basketball was immediately noticed by those at the Indiana School for the Blind, where Bryce was a student for years.

“His brain is like a computer,” said ISB Teacher Mr. Matthews.

It wasn’t just staff members who noticed his grasp for the game, but also big name coaches too. Bryce has University of Louisville’s Coach Rick Pitino in his rolodex. He also befriended Coach Brad Stevens when he was at Butler and gave him advice about defeating Syracuse in the 2010 tournament.

“I don’t know if Coach Stevens ever took any of Bryce’s advice,” said Joe Fredwell, Assistant Principal at the Indiana School for the Blind,  “But I know that he would listen.”

When Bryce was in school, he asked Fredwell, who was his counselor, to go to the Butler games with him. Fredwell, a Butler alum, was happy to oblige.

Bryce has written or called 124 Division I and Division II coaches, and he’s heard back from 69 – including Stevens, one of the coaches he spent the most time with.

“It was really pretty amazing,” recalls Fredwell.  “Here’s this college coach, who obviously has turned out to be a pretty big thing, and it was just like they were high school buddies, just having a conversation talking about basketball. It never came into play that Bryce was blind. They were just talking basketball.”

Why does Bryce reach out to coaches and not players?

“Through them I got to be a part of a team, which is something I never thought that I would be able to do,” said Weiler.

The fact that these coaches get something from him too is evident in the fact that Pitino sent him a college basketball championship ring, and Stevens cut him some game winning net.

“That was something that I always wanted,” said Weiler. “That was something that no one could ever take away from me now or say that I hadn’t earned, because I’d finally been able to live my dream of getting a championship in a sport.”

If life is a game and we’re all in it to win, Bryce is using every second on the clock to his advantage, taking every shot he can to teach others what he’s learned through his disability.

“I just want people who can see to enjoy being able to see and always help out others,” said Weiler who graduates this May. “I just want to find a job where I can give back to players, fans, and coaches and to talk about my journey through sports. I want to show them how fortunate they are to be able to see and help them learn there’s more important things (in life) than winning and losing football games.”

Bryce has already spoken to Coach Chuck Pagano. He hopes to visit with the Colts coach soon and then make his next move.

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