Jayden Winkleman

Nine-year-old Jayden Winkleman poses with one of his most cherished possessions, a framed Chris Nyland autograph.

In a glass is half-empty/half-full sort of way, bus driver Mike Sorenson and Eden Prairie senior basketball player Chris Nyland did both nothing and everything.

Huh?

This story starts in November at the Eden Prairie High School boys basketball team’s tip-off event.

After a series of contests, scrimmages and player introductions, the Eden Prairie basketball team met with its youngest fans.

In attendance was 9-year-old Jayden Winkleman.

Winkleman may or may not have shared high-fives with all the Eagles.

The ones he remembers, however, were the high fives and fist bumps he shared with backup guard Chris Nyland.

Fast forward to last week when Winkleman was riding the school bus home from Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion.

As the kids were getting off on their stops, Sorenson told his charges that he had to finish his route early because he was driving the Eden Prairie girls basketball team to an away game.

The news piqued Winkleman’s interest.

“If you ever drive the boys team, could you get me an autograph?” he asked. “Could you ask No. 5, he’s my favorite player?”

As luck would have it, Sorensen was switched off the girls route to the boys route.

“As they were getting off the bus, I asked the coach to stop No. 5,” said Sorensen. “I asked him if he wanted to put a smile on someone’s face.”

Nyland didn’t know what to think.

“I don’t think he had ever had anyone ask for an autograph before,” said Sorenson. “I don’t think he knew what to write.”

On piece of scratch paper, Nyland scribbled “Sky is the limit Jayden!!!” He signed it Christopher Nyland and added the No. 5.

Delivery

The following Monday, Sorensen told Winkleman that he had a big surprise he would give him that afternoon.

“He gave Jayden the autograph when he got off the bus,” said Lynn Winkleman, Jayden’s mother. “Jayden told me I wouldn’t believe what happened and that it was the best thing ever.

“We had to hurry home,” she added. “We had to find a frame, we had to cut Chris’ face out from the program and we had to put it all together. If this was his Christmas present, it would have been the best Christmas ever.”

When the autograph was in the frame, Lynn Winkleman assumed the frame would go on her son’s dresser in his bedroom.

Nope.

“He wanted it to go in the living room so everyone could see it,” she said.

Me?

Nyland was told the story secondhand.

“When I was growing up,” said Nyland, “I wanted LeBron or Kobe’s autograph. Jayden wanted mine.

“I’m not even a starter,” he added.

Nyland said the request put some things in perspective.

“Kids do look up to us,” he said.

More

After seeing Lynn Winkleman’s Facebook post about a bus driver and a basketball player, Eden Prairie coach David Flom invited Jayden and his brother Jaime to sit on the bench and join the team in the locker room before Tuesday’s home game against Buffalo.

Sorenson plans on joining them.

“I just want to see the smile on their faces,” he said.

When told he was responsible, partly, for the smiles, the bus driver deflected the credit.

“I didn’t really do much,” he said.

Nyland said the same.

“I gave lots of kids high fives,” he said.

Lynn Winkleman disagrees.

“This is a story of an amazing bus driver and an awesome basketball player,” she said, “who together, just made a kid’s day. Really cool.”

Really cool, indeed.

Sports editor

Dan Huss covers Eden Prairie sports and especially loves reporting on sports features and outdoors-related adventures. He lives in Shorewood with his wife, Marnie, daughters Aili and Britt, and Wilma, a pheasant-finding Deutsch Drahthaar.

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