VISALIA, Calif. - Every week in partnership with the Tulare County Office of Education, we tell stories about South Valley students with great character.
This week, we head to Visalia to meet the Mt. Whitney High School JV Boy's Basketball Team.
A team that has welcomed with open arms -- Gage Mendes, a 10th grade student with special needs.
"They are so caring of Gage and thinking outside of themselves and want him to have a good experience this season," JV Boy's Basketball Head Coach Mike Taylor said.
Caring is just the beginning of it -- these boys live for giving Gage a shot to make a basket.
Coach Taylor adds: "It has taught us to think outside of ourselves. There are a lot of times when Gage comes into the game and it's a game where we are about to lose, unfortunately."
"They forget what happened to them and are cheering for Gage and try to get the rebounds and get him an opportunity to score and shoot the basketball which he loves to do."
These high school boys never got a crash course in character -- but have jumped up to the challenge.
"We've had a lot of difficulties this season, we haven't had a lot of wins," Coach Taylor said. "We've been so successful with what we have done with Gage and the friendships that were made."
Friendships like with teammates Seth Herrera and Nick Magana, who have already learned a lot of life lessons from their friend.
"Never give up. It’s a big part of our team," 10th grader Seth Herrera said. "We are brothers on and off the court."
And off the court, from the fans to the cheerleaders to even the opposing team, the energy in the air is one of united excitement for Gage.
"Sports brings people together in that situation, and it doesn't matter what side of the ball you are on, it is about making a special moment for that player," Coach Taylor said.
A moment that does not go unnoticed as Gage's smile says it all.
"I love them. They are like brothers to me, " Gage Mendes said about his teammates. "They help me shoot and everything."
A selfless team that always scores points in character. The Mt. Whitney JV Boy's Basketball Team shows us why Your Character Matters.