WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The best 48 adult wheelchair basketball teams in the U.S. are in Wichita this weekend. The 2023 Adult National Championship Series tipped off Friday morning and will run through Sunday at Wichita Hoops.
Inspiration is easy to find as you gaze out on the eight playing courts and see the para-athletes rolling, spinning, passing, shooting, and rebounding; all while being fastened tightly into their basketball wheelchairs.
One of those inspiring wheelchair ballers is 28-year-old Ryan Neiswender of Charlotte, North Carolina. Neiswender is a guard for the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets.
“We try to get four or five games in within a weekend just to maximize our time and our money. So, oftentimes you’re playing anywhere from ten to 25 games, depending on how much your team is traveling. But to get to Wichita, your team has to play ten games, and then you have to qualify within the rankings,” said Neiswender.
In addition to playing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, Neiswender is a member of the United States Men’s National Wheelchair Team.
“I also play for Team USA, so I’m training daily. Probably twice a day, getting lifts in the morning, getting practice in the afternoon, and then we play about ten to 25 games a year,” said Neiswender.
“I got recognized by Team USA my senior year of high school. It’s taken me to Germany, Italy, France, Tokyo, Colombia, Peru. We’re going to Dubai this summer. Chile. So, it really takes you all around the world, and wheelchair basketball has opened up opportunities, work opportunities, for my physical health, my mental health, and friendships that last a lifetime,” he added.
Neiswender was born with a disability called Congenital Distal Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
“What it means basically, to break that down in simple terms, my motor signal doesn’t send the signal to my quadriceps to allow me to walk. So, I was born with that. It’s all I’ve ever known. And wheelchair basketball, in a lot of ways, was a huge lifesaver for me. It built my confidence. It allowed me to grow and my communication skills. It sent me to college. It helped me find my first job,” said Neiswender.
In addition to staying busy with his wheelchair basketball schedule, Neiswender is also a full-time client manager for Visa’s big tech partnerships and a motivational speaker.
“I like to think that everybody has a superpower,” said Neiswender. “I think that whether we’re disabled or not, we’re all different in some ways, and we have plenty of things that we would probably change about ourselves. But what if we embrace them? What if we double down on them? If we use that as one of our greatest assets and strengths? So, I think it transcends disabled or able-bodied. I think for me. It’s just like as you as a person, like, have you accepted your circumstances? How do we do that within the confines of this sport? High tide lifts all boats, and I really want to be able to do that for this sport, this community and beyond.”