February 17, 2011

Michael Lizarraga's Story Inspires 14-year-old deaf basketball player

Feb. 17, 2011

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)

Northridge, Calif. - Sometimes an inspirational story rips through the fabric of hardened people who claim they have no heart.

Such is the story of Michael Lizarraga, whose determination and passion to play collegiate basketball has been fulfilled despite being born deaf.

Dana O'Neill is a highly respected senior college basketball writer for espn.com and her current story and video interview with Lizarraga details the story of a 14-year-old basketball player (Christopher Caufield) who like Lizarraga is deaf. The young man lives in Illinois, a 2,000 mile distance from Lizarraga's home in California. But Caufield has followed Lizarraga's heroic deeds as if he lived next door.

Dana's poignant story will bring a smile, a good feeling and maybe a tear of happiness. In a time of doom-and-gloom news, Lizarraga's story will up lift your spirit.

The espn.com story and a video interview with Michael Lizarraga is now available at espn.com, one of the most viewed websites in the world. After you enter espn.com, click on the men's basketball link (NCAA BB) or click on http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=6125964.

Lizarraga's favorite quote is "Don't tell me I can't, because I will." Those simple words carry so much meaning.

Lizarraga's story has touched everybody he has been in contact with it, be it through its exceptional play on the basketball court for Cal State Northridge, or through the numerous newspaper articles and television interviews Lizarraga has conducted throughout his four seasons at Cal State Northridge detailing his journey that has earned the respect of everyone.

Michael Lizarraga doesn't carry the status of a Michael Jordan or a Lebron James, but people who have seen, met or read about Lizarraga hold him in high regard as the two NBA superstars. A folk hero so to speak.

Several times after a game, particularly on the road, people have drifted over to meet the likable young man, just to get a glimpse on what message he wants to portray. After a tough loss at UC Riverside earlier this year, a group of students from the California School for the Deaf in Riverside introduced themselves to Lizarraga. Lizarraga didn't play particularly well, but the senior gladly signed autographs and both sides engaged in a friendly conversation through sign language.

Another poignant moment took place early in the season when Cal State Northridge played at California. Many of Lizarraga's friends and former teammates from the nearby California School for the Deaf in Fremont cheered on their hero. Lizarraga obliged by scoring a career-high 15 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block. Even several Cal fans congratulated Lizarraga for his brilliant game.

An amazing trait of Lizarraga is that during his four seasons at Cal State Northridge and because of his inability to hear, he has never felt any self-pity or a "why me" attitude. He plays the game (basketball) that he loves, and his teammates, coaches and even his opponents give him the upmost respect.

Champions win world and individual titles. Champions also inspire and influence people. Michael Lizarraga fits that category.

#42 Michael Lizarraga, 6-7, 230, Senior, Forward, Dixon, Ca.
The only deaf player competing in NCAA Division I basketball ... The subject of numerous feature stories including the New York Times (12/23/10), the Los Angeles Times (2/11/11), espn.com (2/16/11), the Seattle Times (1/8/11), Los Angeles Daily News (2/4/10), CBS Sports (2/12/11), Fox Sports Prime Ticket, ESPNU, the Daily Sundial, ESPNLosAngeles.com, mattbrownphoto.com, and three Los Angeles television stations, Channel 2, Channel 4 and Channel 5 ... A starter in nine games ... Scored a career-high 15 points (6-for-8 from the floor) with five rebounds, two steals and a block at California (11/16/10) ... Collected his first collegiate double-double with eleven points and eleven rebounds (career-high) against Long Beach State (2/12/11) ... Averaging 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game ... Hitting .571 (60-for-105) from the field, tenth-best for a single season in school history ... Has hit 50 percent or better in 13 of the last 18 games ... For his four-year CSUN career, Lizarraga is shooting .557.