Temple basketball’s newest signing is one that hits close to home for coach Aaron McKie.
The Owls announced this week the official signing of Omar Singhateh, a 15-year-old living with sickle-cell anemia who became connected to the program through Team IMPACT.
Singhateh, a Philadelphia native himself, joined the team last September but was limited to Zoom calls and virtual activities because of the pandemic. The 2021-22 season will be his opportunity to better connect with the players and staff as he will be allowed to hang around practices, attend games and fully immerse himself in the day to day of Temple hoops as his schedule sees fit.
“First and foremost, Team IMPACT, we’re a health-care organization,” said executive director Josh Walker. “There’s more to health care than just medicine and procedures. … When a kid like Omar goes out, he still has to go through his daily life. He has challenges but you guys are a team coming around him and I want to thank you for that.”
Team IMPACT is a nationwide organization operating in 48 states and over 600 schools with a mission of connecting kids with serious chronic illnesses to local college athletic teams to form lifelong bonds.
McKie specifically picked the sickle-cell branch of the organization because of the effect it’s had on his family. Both his late brother and sister battled sickle-cell anemia, an inherited red blood cell disorder that makes it difficult for oxygen to travel through the body. And the third-year coach is a carrier of the trait himself.
Although Singhateh won’t be able to check into a live game for the Owls, his involvement with the program will hold far greater significance than what shows up in the box score.
As Singhateh put pen to paper becoming an official member of the Owls, McKie said Saturday morning was the embodiment of what he preaches constantly to his players: the importance of impacting others through the game of basketball.
“You embody our core values that we live by,” McKie said, ”that’s hard work, toughness, commitment and consistency. Your ability to endure the circumstance that you face everyday and come out of it on the other side with that million-dollar smile.”
Singhateh was on Zoom last season when the staff virtually presented him with his jersey and, according to McKie, his face lit up and he smiled ear to ear as he was filled with joy.
Saturday was his first chance to meet the team and staff in person. Despite that smile being covered by a mask, Singhateh’s shy persona took a backseat as he gleefully thanked Temple basketball for the opportunity to be a member of the team.