By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
If you’ve been around the Greater Beckley Christian basketball team over the last two seasons, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Keith Mullins.
If you’re familiar with Keith, you’re also undoubtedly familiar with his No. 1 fan.
“He’s my biggest fan and I’m his biggest fan,” Keith said.
Meet Chase Mullins, Keith’s 13-year-old little brother.
“We’re really close; me and him hang out a lot,” Keith said. “He’s my best friend.”
Chase was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects one in every 800 births.
“We lived in Charleston for the first 12 years of Chase’s life,” their mother, Andrea Mullins, said. “Up until he was in third grade he was completely included. When he was in third grade he was pulled out for special classes.”
While Keith may be lighting up opponents and making headlines this season — he surpassed 1,000 career points at GBC last week — Chase is no stranger to athletics himself.
“He loves to swim,” Andrea said. “He was on the swim team in Charleston from the time he was 8. He swam on the swim team, he played basketball for the Special Olympics, bowled for the Special Olympics and swam for the Special Olympics.”
“When he was on the swim team, I used to cheer him on, too,” Keith said.
While Chase may love swimming, bowling, basketball, playing Wii and even his Yorkie named Heidi, it’s the love between the two brothers that is the most important.
“They’ve got a great relationship,” Andrea said. “Keith’s a special kid. He takes a lot of time to hang out with Chase and play with him. In the summer, they’re on the trampoline. Keith spends quality time with him. It’s a special bond.”
They even have a special saying for the two of them.
“Me and Keith against the world!” an excited Chase said.
“I say me and ‘Goose’ against the world. His nickname is ‘Goose,’” Keith said.
Goose may be the nickname his family chooses to call him, but Greater Beckley head coach Dan Burd has another name for him.
“I like to call him Coach Chase,” Burd said with a smile.
While the elder Mullins brother is seen on the hardwood, the younger Chase can usually be seen sitting on the sidelines and cheering on the 17-4 Crusaders.
“Last year he would sit on the bench with the team,” their father, Jeff Mullins said. “He would go over and get in the huddle. He’d give them the pregame speech. He’d be in the locker room after the game, and after coach Burd would give the postgame speech, Chase would give his speech, too. He really got his taste of coaching.”
In just a few months, Keith will leave Beckley to go to High Point University in North Carolina and pursue a degree in physical therapy, separating the inseparable brothers by 172 miles.
“We try not to talk about it around here,” Andrea said. “Chase said he’s going to miss him. We’ve told him Keith’s going to be going to college, but until he’s gone, he won’t really understand it. He lives in the moment.”
But for the meantime, there are more trips to the bowling alley, a summer on the trampoline and more time playing Wii.
“Keith’s the master of the Wii,” Jeff said with a chuckle. “So whenever Chase has a problem, he has to get the master Keith to help him.”
Chase has more opportunities to cheer on Keith. Greater Beckley will host its opening game of the Class A Region 3, Section 1 tournament Tuesday against Sherman. Tip-off will be 7 p.m.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins