Andrew Dys

Bone disorder doesn't keep York teenager off the court

YORK -- In the seventh grade at Harold C. Johnson Middle School in York, physical education teacher Kendall McCarter expects every kid to dribble a basketball and learn to shoot.

Even Chris Lyle, the 14-year-old kid who either walks in with a walker or rolls in using a wheelchair.

Chris never disappoints his coach.

"He's a hustler," McCarter said.

This is a kid who has missed parts of years of school with a rare bone syndrome that has required surgeries at the Shriner's hospital in Greenville. Part of his femur was taken and now is part of his chest.

Despite his school absences, Chris is a whiz at math.

"And he always makes up his work; sometimes, he works too hard," said his teacher since the fourth grade, at school and when he was homebound, Patricia Willis.

At home, Chris is an expert at video games. His mom, Valerie, said he could be a computer game designer.

"He can do it if he wants," Valerie Lyle said.

Yet, all Chris wants to be when he grows up is an athlete.

"Basketball or wrestling," Chris said.

As a young child, Chris didn't just walk.

"I started out climbing," he said.

"True," said his mother. "He was climbing all over the place."

But his disability got worse. Now, after using a walker or a wheelchair for so long, Chris's upper body is strong as an ox. There is a basketball goal in his driveway at home, like a million kids have, and he practices. But he can't run like the other kids who play competitive basketball.

So, his mother found another way for him to play basketball. Wheelchair basketball.

There is a guy in Charlotte who coaches wheelchair teams because he was on a wheelchair team. Dave Kiley is his name, and he was a star basketball player until he got hurt more than 30 years ago. He had to turn to wheelchair basketball to play. He's played in his chair all over the world.

Kiley knows how to motivate kids who can't run. He has a magical operation called the Charlotte Rolling Bobcats, for kids and adults to play wheelchair basketball. He has ties to the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and even has had some of the players help the kids.

Chris got a special wheelchair, with wheels mounted on an angle, just for basketball.

At the first practice a few weeks ago, Chris was shy.

"He didn't want to do it; he didn't think he could do it," Kiley said. "We fixed that."

McCarter, the coach at York, helped during gym class. By the third practice a few days ago, he wore his orange Bobcats shorts and jersey, No. 52, so everybody could see it. He hung out with a couple of the NBA Bobcats players. "Cool," he said.

Chris made four straight layups the last practice.

"I went for five; just missed it," Chris said.

The day after Christmas, he will play during halftime of the Charlotte Bobcats' home game. Only about 19,000 people will be in the stands.

But first comes a tournament held Saturday and today in Concord, N.C.

His first games.

"I'm a little nervous," Chris said Friday.

A 14-year-old kid is nervous before his first games. Like any other ballplayer.