If you’ve been to a Lipscomb basketball game, you’ve probably seen Conner Mirt dance.
That’s because Mirt often makes himself the halftime entertainment at Allen Arena, much to the delight of the crowd.
“The first time we saw it, we were in shock,” said Deb Mirt, Conner’s mother. “Then it went viral – somebody filmed it and put it on Facebook. He likes to get the crowd riled up.”
Conner, who has Down syndrome, is a 2016 graduate of Lipscomb’s IDEAL program, which was created to offer a full college experience to students with intellectual and/or development disabilities.
The 27-year-old is one of the biggest supporters of Lipscomb’s men’s and women’s basketball. Conner gives Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander a hug after every game, and he’s often seen encouraging the team from the stands or the sideline with a huge smile on his face.
“He’s nothing but a positive influence on us, and we try hard to be the same for him,” Alexander said. “It’s a great relationship that we have with him.”
That infectious grin has made Mirt a celebrity of sorts at Lipscomb. The men’s team threw him a birthday celebration after their win over Jacksonville on Feb. 9. He was one of the first people to the floor to congratulate the women’s team on its first ASUN victory that same day.
“They all take care of him,” said Mike Mirt, Conner’s father. “It’s really amazing to watch.”
But Conner and his family don’t just go to home games. They often attend practices and travel to select road games, along with players’ families like the Morans, the Peppers, and the Marberrys.
“I’ve never seen Conner have a bad day,” senior forward Rob Marberry said. “When he’s at practice, we don’t have bad days either. He’s got a great personality, a great attitude. We want him at every practice.”
Mirt made an appearance on the jumbotron at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte when Lipscomb played North Carolina in the NCAA tournament last season. His trademark grin and dance moves are hard to miss, and by all accounts, he embraces the spotlight.
“He’s always smiling,” Lipscomb junior guard Kenny Cooper said. “After practice he’ll come and break down [the huddle]. It’s awesome to see how excited he gets.”
After Conner graduated from the IDEAL program, Lipscomb athletic director Philip Hutcheson called Mike Mirt and asked how they could keep Conner involved. They settled on the current schedule, where Conner comes in every Tuesday and Thursday to help with various administrative tasks and to hang out with the men’s basketball team.
“I don’t know how much work [Conner] actually gets done,” Mike said with a laugh. “But he’s in Coach Alexander’s office, works in the weight room and goes to chapel with the [team]. They’ve become very close friends.”
Conner also works two days a week at Lifetime Fitness and spends his Wednesdays working at The Well Coffeehouse in Brentwood. Although neither Mike or Deb graduated from Lipscomb, Conner’s involvement with the school has led them to become loyal supporters, too.
“Deb and I have essentially adopted Lipscomb via Conner,” Mike said. “It’s just a great community. We feel like Conner’s so blessed to be associated with it.”
As for Conner’s take on Sunday’s Lipscomb-Liberty showdown for the ASUN title? He’s picking the home team, and his dance moves will probably make another appearance.
“I think we’re good and everything… [especially] when Garrison [Mathews] and Rob are making shots,” Conner said. “I think we can win the championship on Sunday.”
Photos courtesy of Andy Lane/Lipscomb Athletics