BILLINGS – If you meet Zach Sutton and Kayla Teeters on the street, you might notice they’re a little different from the rest of us. But put them on a basketball court, and watch that feeling disappear.
“Lots of times,” said Sutton, “I think they underestimate what I can do, and then I show what I can do on the floor. And then afterwards, most of the time, it’s like, ‘Wow, you’re a great player.'”
“I like it because it’s a challenge, and I know that if I want to keep up with everybody else, I have to work twice as hard,” Teeters said.
Both Zach and Kayla were born with right arm disabilities – Zach missing the bottom half of the arm, while Kayla suffered severe nerve damage. But instead of using the injuries as a crutch, it gave both an insane work ethic to be on the same level.
“In kindergarten he could tie his shoes,” marveled Columbus boys head coach Paul Barta. “Heck, we’ve got kids that are in 2nd grade – their parents buy them Velcro now and they can’t tie their shoes in 2nd grade.”
Regarding his shot, Sutton admits it’s still a bit of a thought process.
“I have to figure it out before I actually do it,” he said. “I have to think about it first. It doesn’t seem like that much work to me just because I’ve dealt with it my whole life.”
“At first it was really difficult to figure out how to do things,” agreed Tetters, “but now, I just kinda do it.”
Once she figured it all out, you couldn’t get her out of the gym.
“She’s a gym rat, and she can really shoot the ball,” said Cougars girls head coach Jeromey Burke. “She does things really well that other people would like to be able to do. Everybody has weaknesses. Some of her’s are a different challenge because it’s something other people don’t have to deal with, but at the same time, she has strengths that other people don’t have.”
A sophomore, Kayla is in her second year in Columbus after transferring from Laurel, and is already playing key minutes for the Cougars. Zach, meanwhile, waited his entire life for this season – the chance to start as a senior.
“It was thrilling,” said Sutton. “I’ve always imagined running through the huddle, slapping all the hands of the teammates, going and shaking the other coach’s hand. It was amazing”
And he’s earned every minute.
“Right now, he’s been our most consistent player the last six, seven games,” Barta said. “Even like coach (Pat) Hansen in Laurel, he says, ‘I love that kid.’ You know, he can shoot. He puts his best defender on him. That tells you something there in itself.”
Kayla and Zach admit they don’t talk a lot with each other. Their time together is contained mostly to the same youth group. But Sutton admits he keeps an eye out.
“It’s kinda cool to see the similarity between the way we play,” Sutton said. “Seeing that we can do the same things, and that we’re still helping a varsity team win games.”
Pieces to the puzzle. That’s all they’ve ever wanted.