Wheelchair basketball team to show off skills in fundraiser
Brian Robinson wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he agreed to coach the Triad Trackers wheelchair basketball team, but he was surprised at what he discovered.
“I thought it would mostly be guys just rolling their chairs up and down the floor and shooting the ball at the goal, but this is a very physical league,” he said, referring to the six-team Carolina Wheelchair Basketball Conference in which the team competes. “You’ll even see wheelchairs getting knocked over sometimes. It’s like bumper cars with a basketball.”
The Trackers will show off their skills Saturday when they play the varsity basketball team at Wesleyan Christian Academy in an exhibition game being held to raise funds for the Trackers.
“This is a chance to make people aware of this sport,” said Robinson, who also coaches girls' basketball at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School. “Wheelchair basketball is a very big national and Olympic sport, but a lot of people just don’t know about it.”
The Trackers range in age from a 14-year-old to a player in his 60s, according to Robinson, who also is head coach of the Bishop McGuinness girls basketball team that has won numerous state championships. Their reasons for being in a wheelchair vary: Some were paralyzed in car accidents, some are wounded war veterans, and some were born with disabilities.
For Saturday’s game, the Wesleyan players will strap themselves in wheelchairs, and Trackers players will give them a brief pregame tutorial on the rule modifications and, more importantly, on how to protect their fingers while rolling up and down the court.
“I told our guys, ‘You’re going to be playing against one of the best basketball teams in the United States, but they’re going to have to learn how to play your game,’ ” Robinson said.
The main rule modifications include:
• When advancing the ball, players may not turn their wheels more than twice without dribbling the ball.
• Players can be in the lane longer than three seconds, as long as they’re making an effort to get out of the lane, which obviously can get congested with players’ wheelchairs.
• When setting a screen, a player’s chair must come to a complete stop, or a foul will be called.
“The best players are the ones that the chair and body are as one — they can actually use the chair as a body part,” Robinson said. “I got in a chair one night to play, and after an hour my arms were very sore, but these guys can go for two hours straight. Their skill level is pretty impressive to see.”
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Want to go?
Wesleyan Christian Academy’s varsity basketball team will play the Triad Trackers in a game of wheelchair basketball Saturday, at 5 p.m., in the gymnasium at Wesleyan, located at 1917 N. Centennial St.
Admission is free, but donations will be taken to support the Triad Trackers; the funds will be used to purchase new wheelchairs and parts.
There will also be a bake sale and a free-throw competition from wheelchairs.