Quinnipiac’s biggest and most influential basketball fan

Giovanni Mio

While he fights a disease that slows down his physical ability, Keith Gaither’s mental drive doesn’t let it get to him. His attitude has inspired both Quinnipiac basketball teams on and off the court.

Gaither is a 20-year-old who suffers from cerebral palsy, which is a disease caused by damage to the motor control centers while the brain develops inside the womb, according to cerebralpalsy.org.

He attends Area Cooperative Education School in Hamden, which caters to the needs of children with disabilities. While he does not go to Quinnipiac, many consider him the school’s number one basketball fan. Gaither sits in the corner straight across from the home bench and has become a coach and a fan for both the men’s and women’s squad.

“He’s so passionate and competitive on game nights,” Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach Tom Moore said. “He’s got a certain energy to him our guys see and react well to. Keith’s energy might be higher than some of our players on game nights.”

He started coming to the basketball games several years ago, when one of his aids called the school about attending a game. Since then, he’s become close to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

“I knew it was a vibe that I was catching with coach Moore,” Gaither said. “I’m not here just to get in the way. I’m here to share my input on basketball.”
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Gaither has shown more than just his input on basketball to the teams. He has made several gifts for the players, including a picture the men’s team touches before they rush on the court every home game.

Not only has Gaither inspired the team, but he sees them as a reason why he has been able to fight his disease. Two years ago, Gaither was able to walk for the first time. Once he stopped, he turned around to a camera and said, “QU baby! I did it for y’all! QU baby!”

“He’s our biggest fan, our biggest supporter, and even comes into the locker room after every game to give a perspective on how much he cares about us as a team and how he wants us to succeed,” senior guard Garvey Young said.

Last year, the Quinnipiac athletics department acknowledged Gaither’s dedication as a fan with an authentic jersey and declaring him the Bobcats’ number one basketball fan in front of a standing ovation on Lender Court. Gaither said it was one of the best moments he’s ever experienced in his life.

“They accepted me with open arms and I can’t thank them enough for that,” Gaither said. “No other college has to do that, but they do it from the kindness from their heart.”
Not only does he think his coaching helps, but his fight against cerebral palsy sprinkles to the players and makes them fight even harder on the court.

“Seeing a kid like me having this type of disease, I think it’s very shocking to them,” Gaither said. “That’s why they play so hard.”

The connection Gaither has with the players is a bond that can never be broken.

“He looks up to us, but in reality we look up to him,” Young said. “We don’t see it as him looking up to us because everything he’s been through. And to still have a passion and a genuine love for us and basketball, it’s truly amazing to be honest.”

Cerebral palsy might have taken away some of Gaither’s physical abilities, but it has only made his heart and mind stronger.

“I don’t let the disease stop me,” Gaither said. “Sometimes you have to face adversity first to get to where you want to go.”