ORLANDO, Fla. — The Downey Christian School varsity basketball team bursts from the locker room in single file, led by a boy 14 inches shorter than the next smallest player, four years younger than the next youngest.
His jersey straps are twisted and bound with plastic ties to prevent them from slipping down his bony 4-foot-5, 70-pound frame. Tricolor socks with pastel waves cover his size 4 feet, conveying the notion that he might be a stylish student manager.
At road games, the boy, point guard Julian Newman, is asked, “Are you on the team?” Here, in the Patriots’ gymnasium, there is no doubt.
The grand marshal of the player parade, Julian, an 11-year-old fifth grader, guides his team into warm-ups, bouncing two balls at once. He glides into a pregame routine that shuffles through jab steps, hesitation moves and effortless dribbles — between his pipestem legs, behind his back, rapid crossovers. The scene is incongruous enough to seem computer-animated.