By Andrew Thompson Landerghini, University of Utah Communications
Thanks to an acrobatic bucket-making magician fresh out of the University of Louisville, and an entourage of tough and selfless teammates, the 2017-18 season was a special one for the Utah Jazz. However, the moves off the court are what made it extra special for one die-hard lifelong fan. Doug Wysocki a former high school teacher, basketball coach and Jazz season-ticket holder hadn’t attended a game since suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2014. But on April 5, he got a big assist from University of Utah Commencement 2018 speaker Ben Nemtin, who has made a career of fulfilling “bucket list” dreams, and received roundball treatment fit for an all-star.
As part of Nemtin’s commencement appearance, he wanted to do something for somebody that was special. The trick was finding that person. Through Occupational Therapy at University of Utah Health, where Wysocki is a client, coordinators with University Marketing & Communications (UMC) and the Board of Trustees learned of Wysocki’s story and of his winning and optimistic attitude despite the hardships he’s faced over the last four years. They contacted Wysocki’s daughter, Sara Jensen, who was instrumental in making sure that the occasion was a surprise and went off without a hitch.
What proceeded was magical and left thousands, whether they saw it at commencement or on their computers, phones or tablets, a little choked up.
The video, which was shown during Nemtin’s general commencement speech, and later posted to the U’s Facebook page, sparked an emotional response and was shared widely across the internet. More than 125,000 people watched then and garnered nearly 5,000 reactions on Facebook alone. It was even mentioned in a Deseret News article about what it takes to give a good graduation address.
The piece received a big boost when it was shared by the Utah Jazz Twitter and Facebook accounts. Of course, the entire evening couldn’t have happened without them in the first place.
“The Utah Jazz were such gracious partners,” said Shelly Christensen, an account executive with UMC who helped oversee the project. “They went above and beyond for us, catered to our needs, were super flexible and treated Doug like an all-star. They even made him his own custom jersey.”
The point guard, however, was the bucket-list bon vivant.
“Ben drove much of the experience that night,” Christensen said. “I was very impressed. He was very down to earth, enthusiastic, super approachable and warm. You can see that he genuinely wants to lighten the burden of others.”
And for one evening, he did just that. With teamwork from a classy organization and a loving family, Nemtin helped one super fan score a win.