Excerpts from U S A TODAY, 3 February 1997: "Richie Pantophlet, a 6-4 center at North Hagerstown (Maryland) High, very seldom speaks. Although deaf since birth, he's found voice in basketball. And he can play. Since transferring from the Maryland Schol for the Deaf, Frederick, Pantophlet, who averages 13 points and 7 rebounds, has carved an invaluable niche for himself in North Hagetstown's 12-3 season.

"Pantophlet, who was born in Aruba and moved from New York to Hagerstown 4 years ago, has a 70 percent hearing loss. He can detect loud noises, such as a referee's whistle, but can't understand conversation. And he's just learning to lip-read. Through Deafnet of Washington County, Maryland, sign language interpreters ... accompany him to class and [are] also on hand for practices and all games.

[The] "biggest concern is whether Pantophlet returns. Although academically classified as a junior, Pantophlet played for the Maryland School for the deaf and might have exhausted his 4 years of high school eligibility.

[Coach McNamee dubs Pantophlet] "'a coach of sorts: Our kids may have looked at him and said this is a kid with a disability.... But watching him, seeing that he's able to contribute just like anyone else, woke them up a bit.'

"'I'm deaf, and I speak a different language,' Pantophlet says. But on court, 'We are all the same because basketball is a language'."

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