Denton: Magic Help Lift Young Boy's Spirit
By John Denton
October 22, 2012
ORLANDO – After getting a chance to bump knuckles with the Orlando Magic’s starters, be in the huddle as referees discussed a mid-game shot clock malfunction and score the Magic’s first victory of the preseason, Joe Gill admitted he was feeling the kind of emotions that would have been natural for any awestruck 12-year-old.
``Right now, my heart is beating a mile a minute,’’ Joe said with a wide smile splashed across his face.
Joe got to live out a lifelong dream last Friday night when he was invited to help the Magic’s game night operations staff keep score for the preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Joe, who is autistic, not only got to meet several of his Magic heroes, but he also scored Orlando’s 112-96 rout of the Pacers at the Amway Center.
``It was just so much fun and I hope I can do it again,’’ said Joe, who was decked out in a No. 15 Hedo Turkoglu jersey while scoring the game.
Joe, a sixth grader at Pace Brantley Hall School in Longwood, developed an interest in scoring and scoreboards as a child and started volunteering at local YMCA gyms to keep score for recreation league basketball and flag football games. His affinity for keeping score grew so much so that Joe’s father, John, purchased a Daktronics scoreboard for his son to practice on around their Winter Park home.
From scoring YMCA games, Joe ultimately graduated to where he assisted with the scoring for Winter Park High School football games. And because his parents, John and Dorothy Gill, are big UCF football fans, Joe was eventually invited to help keep score for a Knights football game late during the 2008 season. The only problem that day for Joe was that the Knights were blanked 15-0 by UAB.
``We are a UCF Knight family and my wife figured out through a connection a way for him to work a UCF football game,’’ John Gill said. ``Joe did the 15-0 game and he was like, `Dad, it was terrible because I didn’t get to put any points on the scoreboard for UCF.’ But because he did such a good job and he follows directions well, they invited him back and he’s scored four UCF games and he’s had so much fun. And he also volunteers at the Y during basketball season and does a lot of their games on Saturdays. That’s his community service.’’
But Joe said there was nothing like being in the middle of the action for last Friday’s Magic-Pacers game at the Amway Center. Joe got to stand at midcourt while the players were warming up before the game. And one of his favorite moments was bumping fists with the likes of Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Turkoglu before the start of the game.
Working with Magic scorekeeper Cindy Fussell, Joe kept track of the game without a hitch. But he was in the middle of a referee summit at the scorer’s table when the shot clock malfunctioned with 15.2 seconds remaining in the first half.
Joe said after the game that a goal of his in life is to someday become a scorekeeper for a living. And he can think of no better place to do so than for the Magic.
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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