Team IMPACT, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help improve the quality of life for children battling life-threatening and chronic illnesses, partnered up with VCU to announce an inspirational signing by the VCU men’s basketball program.
On Thursday, Oct. 23, Morgan Vega, a 17-year-old Henrico, Virginia native currently battling cerebral palsy, got the ultimate birthday present, becoming the newest member of head coach Shaka Smart’s men’s basketball team. During a press conference in the Siegel Center media room, Vega was ceremoniously welcomed to the team by Smart and the 2014-15 men’s basketball roster alongside his mother Shelley. Vega’s 7-year-old brother Gabriel was also in attendance. Smart presented Vega with a National Letter of Intent. With his mother by his side, Vega signed the official document, making him a member of the No. 16th-ranked team in the country.
“One of the things we look for in recruiting is people with a lot of enthusiasm,” Smart said. “We want to have an enthusiastic program filled with enthusiastic people and I think we’ve found a very enthusiastic person.”
Vega, who was all smiles throughout the event, was presented his No. 35 jersey as well as VCU basketball apparel by his new extended family. He will get to attend VCU practices and home games at the Siegel Center this season.
Vega was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a non-progressive movement disorder, a few months prior to his second birthday. Shelley Vega said he is both verbally and cognitively on par for his age and he is very social. Vega is also able to control his power wheelchair on his own accord. His condition restricts his ability, but not his passion for VCU basketball.
“Morgan is a young man that has certainly been through some adversity but he’s got a great attitude, a great smile, he loves VCU basketball and we’re excited about having him here,” Smart said.
Vega said that joining the VCU men’s basketball team would be the best birthday present he has ever received.
“I think it’s a good reminder to our players that there are a lot of people out there who look up to them,” Smart said. “I think for our guys it’s a humbling reminder of just the perspective that’s out there and the reality that in our small world of VCU basketball, there’s a lot of people watching what we’re doing.”
This is the second time in the 2014-15 season Team IMPACT has partnered up with VCU. This past August, the VCU women’s field hockey team announced the signing of four-year-old Lauryn Lewis, who was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. Lewis was presented a National Letter of Intent as well, making her an official member of head coach Laura Baker’s women’s field hockey club.