TALLMADGE, Ohio — Imagine playing in a basketball game — but instead of running and jumping, you played the entire game sitting down. That’s what`s happening this weekend as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association crowns a national champion.
You have the Denver Rolling Nuggets, the Miami Heat Wheels, the New York Rollin Knicks and the Utah Wheeling Jazz. Fitting names for a sport played on wheels.
“You guys shoot on a lower rim? No we don’t. You guys play on a shorter court? No, we don’t. You guys have a 3-pointer? Yes, we do,” said Board Member, Will Waller.
This is the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s National Tournament. The rules are generally the same as the NBA.
“10-seconds in the backcourt, 5 seconds to get it in, 3 seconds in the lane,” Waller said.
The only difference, everyone on the court playing, is sitting.
“To be eligible to play in the U.S., you have to have a permanent lower limb disability,” said Waller.
This weekend the National Tournament is being held at the Tallmadge Rec Center. The top 16 teams are vying for the sport’s top prize.
“We want people to focus on what we can do and not focus on the things we can’t,” said New York Rollin Knicks player Steve Serio.
Each player has a unique story.
“My mom was pregnant with me and she got into a car accident, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and it forced her into premature labor. She had me, I was 2 pounds 8 ounces, I suffered 2 strokes and I’m pretty much a miracle baby,” said Jeremie Phenom Thomas of the Miami Heat Wheels.
As you can imagine, this sport like any other, is extremely intense. And a disability won’t keep these athletes sidelined forever.
“Our mindset has to be out we can do anything that we put our minds to and that is what we go out and do,” said Trey Jenifer of the NRH Punishers out of Washington, D.C.
These guys make it look a lot easier and simpler than it is. You must use your complete upper body to not only control the movement of your wheelchair but also to shoot your shot.
“Once you are living life and you are in the motion, it’s all about staying in the motion,” said Thomas.
There was a bidding process to host the National Tournament and that’s how Northeast Ohio landed the event. Last week the NWBA Division II tournament was held in Tallmadge and it was won by a team from Toronto.