LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Lakewood High School’s Shannon Cotto directs traffic on the basketball court.
“He’s actually a really good communicator,” Lakewood head coach Alex Cammock said. “He’s always active, he’s always involved. He’s playing a thousand miles an hour.”
Cotto’s eyes are constantly darting—his head always on a swivel. His attention to detail makes him nearly impossible to screen.
The only things more infectious than his defense are his energy and his attitude.
“By the way he plays, I would imagine he loves [basketball] immensely,” Cammock said.
Cotto’s motivation is internal. It must be—because while others thrive off the cheers, Cotto plays in silence.
The senior guard is completely deaf.
“I think it’s just fun. It’s a challenge,” Cotto signed. “It’s everything.”
Over the years, basketball has given Shannon an outlet; the game has been his equalizer in an audible world.
“Inside, he’s a really strong person,” Cotto’s interpreter Mary Ann Foster said. “When he wants to do something, he will.”
It’s a mindset Cotto has cultivated since his first basketball experience a decade ago.
Cotto has plenty of support, but the decision to sign him up for second-grade hoops wasn’t initially a slam dunk for his mother, Nithsa Cotto.
“Did I want to do it? I’m going to be honest and say no. Did I want to sign those papers and say go play ball? No.” Nithsa said. “Because I had a lot of worries. A couple times he said he didn’t want to be deaf. That’s heartbreaking to hear from your son, but they embraced him and accepted him the way he is.”
Over the course of his playing career at Lakewood, that acceptance has only grown.
“I’m proud of myself,” Cotto said. “I’m proud of my deafness.”
Cotto said he would like to attend and play basketball at Gallaudet University, a federally chartered private college for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C.