Underestimated because of disability, but Winnipeg basketball player ready to lead team into playoffs
'I can handle it,' says Grade 9 Miles Macdonell student Kieran Dalkie, who was born with half a right arm
Kieran Dalkie says he's used to people not taking him seriously on the basketball court.
But the 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Winnipeg's Miles Macdonell Collegiate has helped his team to a winning 4-3 record this year, and the Buckeyes are entering the post-season fourth overall in the eight-team Kilcona Peguis Athletic Conference.
Dalkie was born with half a right arm, but that hasn't stopped him from playing the sport he's loved ever since he was a child.
"People see me differently, so they look at me differently," Dalkie said.
"I definitely have to work harder than the average person 'cause I have to adjust, but I've been playing so long that I get used to it.
"It's definitely different, but I can handle it."
The small forward has been playing basketball for half of his life, first picking up a ball when he was six years old after watching a game on TV.
Dalkie works on his game consistently by practising drills he's watched on YouTube. He models his play after the styles of NBA stars like Golden State's Stephen Curry and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He says he doesn't want to be treated differently because of his disability and wants people to see the player he is on the court.
"People underestimate me," Dalkie said. "Then I just go on the court and I'll play them, and yeah — that's really it, you know."
Jeff Armstrong, co-coach of the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes, says Dalkie doesn't expect any less from himself than he would from his teammates.
Dalkie's work ethic on and off the court speaks for itself, Armstrong said. In warmups, players and spectators watch as Dalkie sinks three-pointers and dribbles up and down the court with ease.
"He's one of the guys — there's no difference between Kieran and the rest of the team," Armstrong said. "You can honestly forget sometimes that Kieran has an area that is different from the rest of the team, because he fits right in."
That respect has also come from opposing teams, Armstrong said.
"When teams are warming up, you might see somebody look, [thinking] 'OK, there's a student with one arm,'" he said.
But "as they see him warm up, they start to realize 'this is somebody we're going to have to watch out for.'"
Dalkie says he's excited to be able to play games again, after the pandemic shortened the school's basketball season and forced the cancellation of community basketball games.
After almost two years of not being able to play competitive basketball, he says he's still trying to find the rhythm in his game.
"You're not as comfortable" after the nearly two-year hiatus, Dalkie said. "We're still regaining some of our … chemistry to get back to comfortable."
But Dalkie and his teammates have found a way to settle in and finish the season with more wins than losses.
Miles Macdonell faces Garden City Collegiate in the first round of the playoffs in the Kilcona Peguis Athletic Conference, which tips off Monday.