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January 21, 2007

Shepherd grad on USA Deaf Basketball Team

From: The Morning Sun - Mt. Pleasant,MI,USA - Jan 21, 2007

Sun Community Editor

Shepherd High School graduate Jessica Salisbury is taking her basketball skills to Guangzhou, China.

Salisbury, 24, was one of 12 players selected to be a part of the USA Deaf Basketball Team that is competing at the World Deaf Basketball Championships, June 16 to July 1.

A 2001 graduate of Shepherd High School, Salisbury is now a senior at the deaf institution of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Selected by USA Deaf Basketball and USA Deaf Sport Federation based on her abilities and skill level, Salisbury also had to meet the participation criteria of having hearing loss of 55 decibels or greater in the better ear. She was informed of her selection Jan. 12.

"I was so excited," Salisbury said. "Last Friday (Jan. 12) before my basketball practice, when the team and I were shooting around waiting for our coach to arrive, my coach came up to me, and said 'I couldn't wait any longer to tell you.'"

Salisbury said it took a while to sink in.

"At first I was somewhat confused, then she (coach) immediately told me I had made the USADB team. From that point on in practice that day I felt as though I was dreaming. It is such an honor to be playing for the USA World Championships with the other elite athletes."

In her second year at Gallaudet University, Salisbury is a member of the school's Division III basketball team. She has started all 26 games for the Bison with averages of 4.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game.

Having the opportunity to represent her state and country, play on an elite team with other deaf players from all over the country, and having the chance to learn about China's way of life, culture, and food, are some of the things Salisbury said she is looking forward to.

"Also the experience itself will just be amazing," she said. "Last year was the first time that I ever had the opportunity to play on an all-deaf team. It was such an incredible experience. There were no language barriers in practices or games. I learned a lot about deafness and also about basketball."

Active in athletics throughout high school, Salisbury played basketball, softball and volleyball.

"I am competitive and extremely passionate about the game of basketball," she said. "The best part about playing basketball is the intensity, aggressiveness and being able to be physical on the court."

As a deaf person, playing athletics in a world of the hearing presented various challenges.

"The biggest challenge when playing sports in high school was hearing from people what I can't do or what I'm not capable of," Salisbury said. "Throughout middle school, high school, and even during my experiences at my previous college, I have done nothing but try to prove to people what I am capable of."

By proving to herself that she could do anything she put her mind and abilities to, Salisbury said, she was able to overcome the obstacles.

"The strength and encouragement that I received from my mother and father growing up was always a given," she said. "My mother pushed me to be strong and not give up and my father always encouraged me to become the best at what I attempted and to work hard regardless of my deafness."

From a family of athletes, Salisbury said she often found herself playing hoops in the evenings with her father, James, who now lives in Clare, and her brothers.

"They never let up on me because I was a girl or deaf," she said. "Both my parents were athletes in school and I guess I got my natural love for athletics from both of them."

At 18 months of age, Jessica became ill and had the nerves in both ears damaged, causing hearing loss, said her mother, Julie Salisbury, of Ithaca.

Growing up in a hearing world and attending public schools since fourth grade, Jessica did not come to terms with her deafness until arriving at Gallaudet.

"Last year (at Gallaudet) was a rude awakening for me; however, it was a great awakening too," Salisbury said. "I had transferred from my fourth college/university to Gallaudet University and that is where I found my identity and who I really am.

"It has been a long journey filled with experiences, obstacles, and barriers, but in the end, if I had to do it all over again, I would do it."

Jessica's mother said she has also seen changes in her daughter.

"Jessica has had a lot of personal growth from being at Gallaudet," Julie said. "I've seen her blossom. It's like a flower in full bloom. It's been an amazing transition and I would say she's my hero. She has such courage and is a very strong and hard worker."

From fourth through 12th grade, Salisbury had the same interpreter, Peg Melzo, but because different types of sign language are used, there would be a delay in her receiving the information, her mother said.

"At Gallaudet everyone uses the same sign American Sign Language so there are no language, social, or learning barriers," Julie said. "It's one of the best deaf universities to attend. It's just top-notch."

Now having come to terms with her disability, Salisbury said she is proud to be deaf.

"It is an honor to represent the deaf community, the state of Michigan, my family and friends, and it is my goal to do my very best in China," she said.

Prior to the world games, Jessica Salisbury is participating in training camp with the other team members in Riverside, Calif. To take part in the games, she has to raise $3,000.

"It's a lot of work and time is critical here, especially when you're on a tight schedule to pay," Salisbury said. "My mother is organizing the fund-raising for me as we speak, because I have my hands full with 16 credit hours and playing a full schedule as a Gallaudet University basketball player."

If not for the help of her mother, Salisbury said the trip would not be possible.

"That's why they say 'Moms are the best.'"

© 2007 Morning Star Publishing Company