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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Basketball sits down for a game

    EVAN CARAVELLI / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Mens and Womens basketball teams showed up to play against the Arizona Wildchairs, a team composed of disabled athletes on wheelchairs. Everyone smiled and had a good time and Salim Stoudamire even showed up in the second half to try his hand at the 10 point shot from half-court.
    EVAN CARAVELLI / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Men’s and Women’s basketball teams showed up to play against the Arizona Wildchairs, a team composed of disabled athletes on wheelchairs. Everyone smiled and had a good time and Salim Stoudamire even showed up in the second half to try his hand at the ’10 point shot’ from half-court.

    Men’s Basketball Lame for a Game

    The Arizona men’s basketball team is ready to take the court once again, but this time the Wildcats are going to play sitting down. The annual Lame for a Game event, which features the Wildcats and the Wildchairs, takes place tonight at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.

    Tickets are $5.

    “”It’s a really good environment for students … and families and the community to come out and check out the Wildcats one more time and also to get a little bit of an idea of what wheelchair basketball is about,”” said Wildchairs head coach Derek Brown.

    Started in 1981 as a fundraiser for Arizona’s adaptive athletics program, the game has grown to be an effective source of funding as well as an entertainment source for fans, reaching its peak in 1997 when the event drew 14,500 fans. Brown said he hopes to draw about half as many fans tonight.

    “”The No. 1 goal is to be a fundraising event that benefits wheelchair athletics and the secondary goal is to raise awareness about the athletic opportunities for disabled athletes here at the university,”” Brown said. “”The third objective would be the entertainment with the Wildcats that’s there and just the fun atmosphere that’s there.””

    The entertainment value has been high in the past and should be no different this year, with senior guard Hassan Adams taking the floor and possibly taking off for some of his patented aerial maneuvers.

    “”For me it’s the last time I really get to play on this court with my teammates,”” Adams said. “”I always make time for this because we’re fortunate. I was telling the freshmen there’s gonna be a lot of people coming to this thing, a lot of people to support this event.””

    Starting last year, the game no longer pits the Wildchairs against the Wildcats but rather splits the two teams evenly.

    “”We did that because when it comes down to it, we’re all Wildcats and we’re all basketball players,”” Brown said.

    Sophomore walk-on forward Bret Brielmaier is glad he doesn’t have to face the Wildchairs head to head.

    “”Just from last year’s game, we’re terrible,”” Brielmaier said. “”These guys have to put in a lot of work to be able to be as good as they are.””

    At practice yesterday freshman forward Fendi Onobun was adjusting to his seat and getting tips from the wheelchair players.

    “”I’m getting the hang of it, using my arm strength to be able to push myself down the court,”” Onobun said. “”It’s a lot harder shooting, but it’s a lot of fun.

    “”I commend these guys who are on wheelchairs playing the game because it takes a lot of skills, and they’re really good. They make it look easy, but it’s not easy.””

    Wildcat players do have a few rule advantages in the game, however, like a number of 10-point half-court shot opportunities as well as a selected number of chances to stand up and out of the wheelchair to show off for the crowd with dunks.

    Arizona players will also interact with fans before and during the game, signing autographs, throwing mini basketballs into the stands and handing out T-shirts.

    “”Everybody can get in and see their favorite player and be up close and personal when we sign autographs and run in the crowd and throw balls in the crowd and give out T-shirts,”” junior point guard Mustafa Shakur said.

    Wheelchair athletics have become more popular in the mainstream recently thanks in part to the documentary “”Murderball”” about wheelchair rugby and a number of stories published about wounded soldiers participating in wheelchair sports as part of their rehabilitation. Wheelchair basketball even has an official league, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, in which the Wildchairs participate as members of the Intercollegiate Division.

    “”I think wheelchair athletics in general is being more mainstream and definitely generating some interest, and we’re hoping to see that grow,”” Brown said.

    At the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament at Huff Hall at the University of Illinois Saturday, Arizona won fifth place with a 72-51 win over Southwest Minnesota.

    Sophomore Mike Applegate led three Wildcats in double figures with 26 points.

    An hour prior to Lame for a Game, the Wildchairs will play an exhibition game between themselves to “”showcase wheelchair basketball talent and how the games are actually played on the court,”” Brown said.

    “”I’ve had classes with some of them, and I don’t think anything less of them,”” redshirt sophomore guard Jawann McClellan said. “”They’re regular people, and people need to start respecting wheelchair (athletics) and Olympic competition like this because it’s a sport.””

    For the Wildchairs, they’re ready to show off their talents on a bigger stage.

    “”They understand the benefits of the event, so that gets them excited,”” Brown said. “”It’s a great opportunity to be on the floor at McKale in front of a large crowd.””

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