The newest and most inspiring member of the Suffolk University men’s basketball team may not be able to dunk or shoot a three-pointer.
But he can certainly motivate others.
His name is Luke Giuffrida, and he is 8 years old.
Giuffrida, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2012, recently signed a letter of intent to join the Suffolk men’s hoop team, a connection made possible through TeamIMPACT, a Boston-based organization that matches children with health issues and college athletic teams.
Although Luke, who lives in Methuen, has been part of the Suffolk squad since mid-January, his signing-day ceremony made him an official member of the team.
“It’s a huge honor to be involved with Luke and TeamIMPACT,” says Suffolk men’s head basketball coach Adam Nelson. “This has been such a positive experience for everyone in our program.
“Luke has benefited because he gets to hang out with our guys and sit on the bench at our home games. And our student-athletes benefit because they get to be around a great kid and see themselves as role models.”
Luke’s kind and genuine nature has been an uplifting influence to the team on more than one occasion this season.
“We lost a home game to Mount Ida on a half court shot at the buzzer on Valentine’s Day,” says Nelson. “Needless to say, our players were not happy afterwards. All of a sudden, Luke walks into the locker room and starts handing out valentines that he had made for everyone.
“It put everything in perspective. Here is a kid who is struggling with cystic fibrosis, but who has such a positive outlook. He changed the whole complexion of the room where the players felt that there are more important things in life than losing a basketball game.”
Luke’s relationship with the Suffolk men’s basketball team will continue to grow over the years. In a few weeks, the Suffolk squad plans to visit one of the youngster’s gym classes and attend one of his karate sessions.
“Luke is all in now,” says Nelson. “He’s a part of our team all the way.”