Blind student Cash now has new basketball job at Kearny High

Eddie Cash always had a strong love of the game of basketball.

“I was living in Manhattan and I was six years old,” Cash said. “I started playing basketball whenever I could. I was automatically liked basketball once I was introduced to it.”

The Cash family moved to Union City when he was 12 years old, but his overwhelming devotion to the game never wavered.

“I went to Thomas Edison School in Union City and played there,” Cash said. “I played for the St. Michael’s CYO program. I met Baron Davis (a former New York Knick player) and became a big fan. I really wanted to play in the NBA. That was my dream.”

The family moved again to Kearny and Cash became a fixture with the Kearny Recreation youth basketball program.

“I met Eddie when he was about 12 years old,” said Bill Mullins, the head boys’ basketball coach at Kearny High who also coaches in the Kearny Rec program. “I coached him when he was younger on a travel team I coached. He was a good player. He knew how to play the game. He was a good outside shooter.”

When he was 15 years old, Cash started to experience troubles with his eyesight.

“I woke up one morning and my eyes were blurry,” Cash said. “I thought it would clear up. But then it started to get worse in my left eye. By the time I got to eighth grade, it transferred to my right eye.”

Eddie’s mother, Virginia Cash, showed instant concern.

“One day, I went downstairs and he was sitting right in front of the television,” Virginia Cash said. “He said, ‘Mom, I can’t see.’ I was a little panicked. Now I knew it was serious.”

After a series of local eye doctor visits, Cash and her husband Keith took Eddie to an opthamologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

“I had to guide him walking at that time,” Virginia Cash said. “He was also losing his hearing and his sight and we didn’t have any answers. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t understand why this was happening. No one was giving me any information.”

Eddie underwent a CAT scan to determine the problem. It was discovered that Eddie had unnatural bone growth around the nerves leading to his eyes and the bone growth crushed the nerves.

“They wanted to shave the bone to allow the nerves to grow and breathe,” Virginia Cash explained. “They didn’t know if it was a permanent thing.”

Eventually, the hearing came back, but the eyesight did not.

“After I lost my vision, I knew I couldn’t play basketball or video games anymore,” Eddie Cash said. “I was at a loss for words. Whenever I just touched a basketball, it just made me happy. I was very sad at being blind at 15.”

Eddie underwent two separate surgeries at Hackensack University Medical Center on each eye, trying to alleviate the pressure caused by the rapid bone growth.

“They tried to preserve whatever eyesight was left,” Virginia Cash said.

“I can see shadows, certain movements and colors,” Eddie explained. “But only in my right eye. My left eye is totally blind.”

Needless to say, it was devastating to a growing teen who just loved to play hoops. He dreamed of becoming a basketball star like his favorite players, the late Kobe Bryant and current Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.

“They were the two players I watched the most,” Eddie Cash said. “When Kyrie was with Cleveland, I just loved watching him, the way he plays and the basketball IQ he has. The way he moves. I wanted to be like him. I was studying him.”

A lot of other kids who lose their eyesight tragically at age 15 might have begun to feel sorry for himself and become reserved. Eddie had his moments of depression. He has been assigned to case managers and advisors at Kearny High.

Maryanne Moran is part of the Child Study Team who works with Eddie on a regular basis.

“I wanted to see if there was a way we could get Eddie involved with basketball,” Moran said. “He loves basketball so much. He came to me and talked about listening to the sport he loves.  He can’t see it, but he can listen it.”

So Moran went to Kearny athletic director Vin Almeida to see if there was something Cash could do with the basketball program.

Cash loves music as well. He is a fan of rap and hip-hop music with his favorite artists being Machine Gun Kelly and Baby Keem.

“Since all this happened, music cheers me up,” Cash said.

Almeida was all for getting Cash involved somehow.

“When he lost his sight, it put him in a place of unhappiness,” Almeida said. “You see a kid like this, a special kid. If he was interested, we wanted to make him feel like he was part of the family. So since he was into music, we thought he could be the DJ before the games and during game stoppages.”

“Eddie loves basketball and loves music,” Mullins said. “We can have the two mix together. I thought it was a great idea. He’s such an uplift to us. We all know that if not for losing his sight, then he would be playing.”

So at every game, Cash is a fixture, hooking his phone up to the public address system and plays the tunes that both inspires the players and gets the fans involved.

And at halftime of Kardinal games, Cash is out taking shots with public address announcer Andrew Gray, who has taken a special liking to Cash. Gray guides Cash to a point on the floor and allows Eddie Cash to be Eddie Money on the floor with that special jump shot.

Sharon McKenna is Eddie’s case manager at Kearny High. She first met Eddie when he played Kearny Rec when her husband, Kevin, a science teacher at the Kearny Middle School (Lincoln School) coached Eddie and her two sons.

“When he came to the high school, he was without his sight,” McKenna said. “The remarkable thing about him is that he’s so positive. It’s amazing to watch.”

McKenna has been working with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind to teach Eddie to read braille.

“I think the most impressive thing is how he’s learned to navigate through things,” McKenna said. “He’s learning the braille so quickly. His determination and positive attitude are tremendous. I’m proud of him and proud to know him and see him do so well.”

Moran is impressed with the way the entire athletic department has embraced him.

“The people at Kearny High are all about including everyone,” Moran said. “All of the students can’t have a position on the field. I just knew that if Eddie had a chance, he would be great, because he’s so positive and so determined. He’s passionate about basketball. You can’t not want to help him or encourage him. He’s so determined. You can see the determination from then to now. I’m not surprised.”

Eddie Cash is now 18 years old and a junior at Kearny. He’s a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.8 grade point average in his special classes. He hasn’t started to think about college, but it’s probably in the picture.

“I like clothes,” Eddie Cash said. “Maybe I can get into clothes design or sneaker design.”

Cash is no longer feeling sorry for himself, but he still has dreams of regaining his sight and becoming an NBA player.

“Until I’m able to see again, I’m going to try to live my life and have fun,” Eddie Cash said. “Ever since I became blind, I try to stay positive. I feel like I’ve become popular. I’m lucky to have people helping me out all the time, my family and friends.”

Cash is so beloved by the entire athletic program.

“He’s such a positive kid,” Almeida said. “He’s a hard worker who is a joy to be around. He even gives coaching tips to Coach Mullins and Coach (Jody) Hill.”

“He’s an inspiration to everyone,” said Hill, the head girls’ basketball coach. “Everyone roots for him. He’s tremendous. A lot of us takes things for granted. He wishes he could be out there playing. He’s doing what he can do. We love him.”

“It’s really a positive thing,” Mullins said. “You see him in that basketball atmosphere. We were able to bring him happiness.”

And as for those coaching tips?
“He really has a good sense of the game and how it goes,” Mullins said. “He’s right on target with what he tells me. He brings a lot more to us than what we’ve done for him.

“And all you have to do is give him a ball,” Mullins said. “He loves having that basketball in his hands.”

Cash said that if his eyesight returns, he’d love to try motocross bicycle racing. Now there’s an inspiration.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”