WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The 2023 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament is being held all weekend long in Wichita.
This weekend is the Junior Division of the Wheelchair Basketball National Championship. All 44 teams from 26 states are here for the varsity-level sport. Some 500-600 athletes are here to play the fast-moving physical game.
“It’s a very fast and physical game, for sure,” said National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) President Ryan Martin.
Organizers say if you’ve never seen it before, the rules are very similar to typical high school play.
“Play on the court is very similar to regular basketball. You’ll see concepts such as man-to-man defense, zone defense, you’ll see on the offensive side a motion offense,” said Martin. “Some of the main differences is there are no double dribbles, and then you’re allowed two pushes without dribbling for a travel. Otherwise, the hoops are the same height, the ball is the same size, the lines and dimensions of the court are the same size.”
It’s about more than the game for these players.
“My favorite part would be my teammates; I mean, we’re like family even when we’re not on the court,” said wheelchair athlete Samantha Fraser.
Martin says that disabled individuals that participate in sports go on to excel in other areas.
“Historically, individuals with disability, especially youth, that participate in adaptive sports are more inclined to go on to college, have a higher rate of employment, and overall, just a better lifestyle long term. At the NWBA we really hope our youth athletes use the sport to excel in other areas,” said Martin.
These athletes aren’t letting anything stop them from reaching the gold.
“Every athlete here is very competitive since with wheelchair basketball, there aren’t many teams out there, it is a travel team, so we have to travel different places to just be able to compete against the best,” said Fraser.
“You know, we’re going to have some people upset that they didn’t win, and we’re going to have some tears when somebody finally gets to cut down the net on Sunday,” said Martin.
The play continues throughout the weekend at Wichita Hoops, 5260 Toler Dr.
The adult championships will take place in Wichita next weekend.