Dogged and determined, Maddax Zednik went into her fifth-grade basketball tryouts expecting to make the team.
She was cut. Naturally, the news was tough to swallow.
“It made me upset,” said Zednik. “I went home and started crying.”
Zednik isn’t the first youngster to hear the words that no one wants to hear. Sorry, but you didn’t make the final roster.
Nowadays, she’s a junior/starting guard/co-captain of the girls’ basketball team at Blackstone Valley Prep.
“I liked basketball so I wanted to keep going,” said Zednik, reflecting back to a time in her life when she turned a negative in a positive.
Removing basketball from the equation, the 16-year-old Zednik continues to serve notice that she won’t be stopped or derailed in her quest to live a normal life.
Zednik was born with a limb deficiency. Specifically, her right arm ends at the elbow. Upon getting cut from the fifth-grade team at BVP, she placed a mat in the family driveway, grabbed a basketball, and set out to improve her ballhandling skills.
The following year, Zednik made the squad as a sixth grader – a testament to hard work paying off in the sport she deemed her favorite.
“It was something I worked for,” she said. “The reward in the end was making the team which I wanted so badly.”
Both Blackstone Valley Prep’s nickname and value system are based on “PRIDE.” The PRIDE acronym represents Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Enthusiasm. Within the hallways of the Cumberland-based school, Zednik has come to embody a strong sense of PRIDE.
“For me, I’m not thinking that I’m playing basketball with one hand. Everything I do is with one hand,” said Zednik, “but getting called out for recognition makes me realize that what I am doing is different.”
For Zednik – a varsity contributor to BVP’s girls basketball varsity program since Day 1 of her freshman year – half the battle is avoiding the temptation of clouding her mind with thoughts of perceived advantages others may have. To her, she’s no different from anyone else on the floor – be they her teammates or opposing players.
“I’m doing what everyone else is doing. I’m playing a sport. There are no limitations,” she said.
“I never let her feel bad, but honestly, she’s always had it in her,” said Sonya Kieon, Maddax’s mother. “Everyone wants their child to be independent. With Maddax being different, it was hard for me to watch with that feeling of, ‘Oh God, I hope she doesn’t fail.’ She’s just very driven and gives 100 percent to everything she does.”
Zednik was a kindergarten student at Blackstone Valley Prep when she first realized she was different from the other kids.
“At that time, I still needed help,” she said.
Fast forward to the present, Zednik can dribble and shoot with the best of them. Earlier this week, she netted 18 points in a 42-25 win over North Providence. Defensively, her penchant for anticipating where the ball is heading has allowed her to collect multiple steals on a given night.
“You can’t change what you weren’t given. It’s either, ‘I want this and I’m going to try and put my best into it’ or ‘I’m not going to do it at all,’” said Zednik. “Never once did I think that I wasn’t going to do it at all and sit back.
“It’s the same as everyone else … just a little different,” Zednik added. “It’s about going out with the same attitude that everyone else has. It doesn’t matter what others think … she has one hand. If I’m playing to the best of my ability and I think I did well, that’s all that matters.”
Blackstone Valley Prep Athletic Director Ed Laskowski has known Zednik since middle school. Also a physical education teacher at BVP, Laskowski remembers being impressed with Zednik’s ability to handle every fitness-based challenge that was presented to her.
That same willingness is on display every time Zednik represents the Pride on the hardwood.
“We need her out on the court, but sometimes you see the struggle,” said Laskowski. “She’s able to fight through it every single time.”
Looking ahead, Zednik has her sights set on hooping it up at the collegiate level.
“I know I definitely don’t want to stop playing basketball,” she said. “Sports have always been in my family.”
Different? Perhaps. Resolute in everything she does? There’s no question that Zednik checks off that particular box.
“She’s just amazing to watch,” said Kieon.