Five-year-old James Ludwig joins the men’s basketball team

The UAA men’s basketball team finally revealed their newest member on Wednesday, Oct. 23 to a press conference held at the Alaska Airlines Center. Their newest recruit, James Ludwig, was paired with them through an organization called Team IMPACT.

Men’s basketball head coach, George Osborne, with newest recruit, James Ludwig, at his official draft day ceremony. PC: UAA Athletics

Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit that connects children, ages 5 – 16, with serious or chronic illness with local college athletic teams. The men’s basketball team at UAA was approached by Team IMPACT this past summer and will be the first team from Alaska to partner with them.

Since it was founded in 2011, Team IMPACT has joined over 1,600 children to athletic teams at 500 colleges all over the United States.

The program’s goal is that each child will gain a new sense of belonging as well as improvements in their confidence and optimism. In return, the student athletes will become a new part of the child’s support system.

James Ludwig is 5-years-old and from Eagle River. He’s also battling epilepsy. Amidst the crowded press room, he was joined at the event with his mother, Michelle; brother, Nathan; sister, Lily; and service dog, Blitzen.

“We were very excited when we got Team IMPACT’s call,” said Michelle Ludwig. “It gives our family support and relationship building, which, being a special-needs family, you’re a little isolated. So having this opportunity for everyone in our family, and especially James, is really great.”

Head coach for the last 14 years, Rusty Osborne, is excited for the new addition to the team.

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“I hope that our team can learn as much from James as he learns from us,” said Osborne. “In addition, we hope James will see improvements in his confidence and optimism as well as experience a sense of belonging to a group.”

During the drafting ceremony, Ludwig received his very own UAA jersey after signing his official letter of intent. With the same responsibilities as the other members of the men’s basketball team, Ludwig is expected to be at all of the practices, games, team dinners and more.

Aside from working with Team IMPACT, the men’s basketball team has done a wide range of other volunteer work.

“Our team has been involved in a wide range of service partnerships, including the Anchorage School District, Providence Children’s Hospital, local assisted living facilities, Special Olympics Alaska and the YMCA,” said Osborne. “The opportunity to team up with Team IMPACT was an easy decision. We proposed the opportunity to our team members and they enthusiastically jumped at [it].”

Although basketball season has just started, Ludwig has made his spot on the team roster for the next two seasons.

With that being said, there are still over 1,200 college teams that are still awaiting the chance to be matched with a courageous child battling an illness. For more information about Team IMPACT, be sure to check out their website