Rumson-Fair Haven basketball player with autism Matty Cools makes shot

It was a moment no one in the gym will ever forget.

Matt “Matty Cools” Newman, a Rumson-Fair Haven High School student who has autism, got a spot in the varsity basketball team’s starting lineup for a game against Holmdel.

Not only that, but he stole the ball shortly after tip-off and scored a layup.

“I loved it,” Matty Cools said.

So did everyone else. Video of the sequence went viral. Eli Manning sent him a New York Giants jersey signed with a personal message. Matty Cools, already everyone’s favorite teammate, achieved full-blown celebrity status at his school and throughout the Shore Conference.

Rumson-Fair Haven's Matt Newman dribbles after taking the ball from Holmdel's Drew Pollock (No. 21).

Of course, there’s so much more to the story.

There are the parents who adopted Matt at two months old and helped him find a life-altering connection with sports.

There is the coach who quite literally pulled him into the basketball program, where he was embraced from the start.

And there’s the Holmdel player from whom Matty stole the ball. His sportsmanship deserves a spotlight.

In a school year marked by a football hazing scandal at Wall High School, this is your reminder that, done right, scholastic sports can be elevating and inspiring. This is far from the only example out there. But it’s a spectacular one.

Rumson-Fair Haven High School boys basketball manager Matt

‘With the inclusion, he just blossomed’

Ed Newman spent his formative years steeped in sports. He played basketball at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen and lacrosse at Rutgers University. As he and wife Mary Newman raised Matt, the TV in their Rumson home often was tuned to hoops. For a long time, they didn’t know if anything was getting through.

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