OXFORD, Mich. (WXYZ) — John Asciutto, a shooting survivor of the Oxford High School shooting, is being recognized nationally. His athletic director nominated him for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Courage Award, and it came as a total surprise.
Furthermore, the student-athlete learned he's 1 of 10 finalists nationwide.
“It’s an awesome feeling. Can’t be more thankful. Just honored," Asciutto told 7 Action News.
Athletic director Tony DeMare said to qualify the nominees must be high school seniors, who play varsity basketball, and displays courage.
“It really was an easy choice to just be able to just think through — John being a courageous person and what he has done, what he’s meant to our school, the athletic department, and the community," DeMare explained.
When asked, Asciutto defined what 'Oxford Strong’ means to him.
“We’re just a tough community. Nothing can break us," he responded.
The motto surfaced following the darkest day in the city’s history. Asciutto, who was shot in the back of the leg, did not want to talk about that day. Instead, he spoke with 7 Action News about his future, his love of varsity football and basketball.
Asciutto recalled returning to the hardwood to a standing ovation.
“It was a good moment for me. I felt cared for, and I was happy," he said.
The high school senior remembered what it felt like to be cleared to play by his doctor after healing 100% physically.
"It was a really good feeling. I mean, even today, going out and playing it’s just like, it’s crazy and I don’t take it for granted at all,” he explained.
Steve Laidlaw, boys varsity basketball head coach said Asciutto's nomination is “incredibly well-deserved."
"I don’t think anybody knows the type of trauma and adversity that the entire school but specifically John went through," he said.
Laidlaw recalled, “He goes, ‘Coach, I can’t wait to come back.'"
The coach said the motto and focus this year has been to 'press onward'.
“And John has done that with incredible courage, and toughness, and he’s brought his teammates great joy, and peace and hope," Laidlaw explained.
Asciutto has been lifting others up while staying humble. DeMare said Asciutto's modesty is one of the reasons he surprised him with the nomination and one reason why he's deserving of a win.
The male and female winners of the Naismith Courage Award will be announced April 12th.