On Monday night at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, The Michigan Wolverines Men’s Basketball Team welcomed its newest member to the program. Jude Stamper, a 12 year old from Monroe, Michigan, signed his National Letter of Intent alongside his father and Coach Beilein. Jude was born with Arthrogryposis Multi-Congenital disorder which restricts normal movements in his joints. He has undergone 10 surgeries in his life at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He was paired with Michigan Basketball through a national nonprofit, Team Impact, that connects children facing challenging illnesses and disabilities with college athletics teams in the hopes of providing lifetime and life-changing bonds.
Coach John Beilein explained that one of the core values of Michigan Basketball is “Gratitude”. Jude and his family have shown immense gratitude for the opportunity while the Wolverines team has fully embraced and enjoyed Jude’s presence, who will be at Wolverine practices and games. Coach Beilein will look to Jude to provide moral support and motivation to the team. Jude said that if a player like Mo Wagner had a tough game he would tell him to, “Shake it off and keep working hard.” Jude embodies strength and the ability to handle adversity and he will serve as an example for his fellow teammates, who were all in attendance at the signing day press conference.
Jude fielded questions from his teammates and the press after signing his Letter of Intent. When asked what it felt like to be the youngest player in Michigan Wolverines Basketball History, Jude replied, “It’s just an honor”. He loves Michigan, his favorite player is Derrick Walton Jr., and he thinks the coaches have done a great job preparing his teammates for the season. Some of his other personal favorite things include Planet of the Apes for favorite movies, boneless wings for favorite gameday snack, cougar for favorite animal, and “Jumpman” for favorite pump up song. After taking questions in stride like a player that just won a championship, Coach Beilein unveiled Jude’s jersey. A maize Jordan-Brand Michigan shirt with his last name, Stamper, and #19 on the back. Jude wanted #19 because that was his mom’s number. His fellow teammates applauded and gave chants of “Juuuuuude” to express their excitement for welcoming in the newest Wolverine.
Freshman guard Luke Wilson said, “It’s really awesome to have a great person like Jude on the team, we can learn a lot from what he has been through and we can gain strength from him.”. Junior guard Charles Matthews said, “Jude is a huge inspiration for us, he will help us through tough times.”
On a night that showed the true power of sports, a power stronger than any game or record could ever be, we saw a team and a child come together to be there for each other. We saw the unity and bond that sports are built on and the hope they can bring to someone’s life. Sports are about overcoming adversity, and Jude will undoubtedly bring that characteristic to this team. His father, Nate Stamper, expressed gratitude for the blessing their family has been given. He said, “Jude is a special young man who will change your life, he is a blessing.” In the best of ways, Jude described knowing he would be a part of his favorite team as simply “Crazy”. The night brought smiles to everyone in the room, none more resounding than Jude’s as he held up his new jersey and officially became a Michigan Wolverine.