ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — While most athletes want the gym quiet when they shoot free throws, Jules Hoagland isn’t like most athletes. She usually shoots her free throws with an assistant tapping the backboard.
“I still struggle with exactly where the basket is. If I have the stick tapping on the backboard, it helps me know exactly where the hoop is,” Hoagland said.
Hoogland plays for the Zeeland Unified Basketball team and was born with barriers to play that most athletes don’t have.
“I developed this eye condition after I was born, on my third birthday I lost my sight. I’m still dealing with trying to accept it,” explained the high school junior.
She couldn’t accept sitting on the sidelines: She learned to ski, to use a scooter and to play basketball.
“I started in the 7th grade, and I was like, ‘I just want to try something new,'” she said.
To be able to play, she uses the help of senior Ally Guffy, who lines Hoogland up to the basket, and sets up each shot.
“She’s basically my eyes on the court,” explained Hoogland.
For years, the two played in Zeeland Unity Games, completing shots and creating memories. But no memory will be as strong as the last game they had together.
“Two-thousand people were in the gym, and they got to watch us play the unified game,” Hoogland said. “Before the game I hadn’t been making many because I was practicing, and I was like, ‘I really hope I make this.'”
“It’s the end of the game and she had shot a couple and missed them, so I know the whole school was waiting for her to make it,” said Guffy.
“When I made the basket, I was really proud of myself,” Hoogland said.
She wasn’t the only one proud. Within hours, the video of her shot was everywhere.
“It started on Facebook, then it went on TikTok and then Twitter and then ESPN. I’m still in shock because of this and it’s been over a week later,” Hoogland said.
A News 8 report from March 24, 2022:
Before she had time to process her newfound fame, the phone rang.
“My boss called my mom, and she was like, ‘Are you going anywhere for spring break?’ and we were like, ‘no.’ We thought it was a scheduling thing, right? She called my mom a couple hours later and was like, ‘Pizza Hut corporate wants to fly Jules out to see the Final Four’ and I was like, ‘Woah!'” she said.
From Zeeland to News Orleans, these last two weeks have been a wild ride. Eventually, life will return to normal for Hoogland.
“I’m still learning how to be independent. I’m learning how to cross streets, how to use the city bus,” Hoogland said.
But if that shot is proof of anything, it’s that she won’t let anything get in the way of what she wants to do.
“So many people stereotype blind people. They think just because I’m blind I can’t do things. It’s going to be hard. But I can do it,” Hoogland said.