Hello and welcome to a new series on RAW Coaching where I will be looking at the journeys of wheelchair basketball athletes involved in the American College system, following the success of the intercollegiate programme. The first edition of the series will include insights from four women involved in the programme studying at the University of Texas-Arlington and playing for the UTA Movin’ Mavs.
Dunkin has Neurocardiogenic Syncope Dysautonomia with Small Fiber Neuropathy and started playing wheelchair basketball in 2013. She decided to take up the sport after watching some YouTube footage of the USA women’s national team at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, four years later she’d win a gold medal with that team in Rio.
She contacted Fort Sam Houston military base in San Antonio, Texas and tried out wheelchair basketball alongside injured veterans. After trying it out, she knew it was the sport for her.
The 22-year-old was born in Rota, Spain before moving to New Bruanfels, Texas when she was three years old. She is currently in her fourth season with UTA and is classified as a 3.5. Besides UTA, she has also played for the San Antonio Parasports Spurs in the NWBA Division 2 National League as well as being involved with the USA women’s national team for three years.
Dunkin’s hopes and ambitions for UTA this season is to “get back on top” as she explained that the team “ended on a pretty rough note last season” when the team lost to the University of Alabama in the women’s intercollegiate final.
Following on from this, she commented on the competition in the American College league saying that: “it’s going to be tough.” She elaborated on this by acknowledging that Alabama will likely be the toughest competition due to the talent involved in their programme. However, she doesn’t know what to expect from Illinois or Wisconsin Whitewater as they’ve recently gone through a rebuilding process.
Continuing to develop is always an important process, Dunkin touched on the subject of wheelchair basketball development to the American College system by saying that the development is “moving forward” as she thinks colleges are now starting to accept and promote wheelchair basketball collegiate programmes at universities.
She credits UTA for being “awesome” by supporting and promoting their games and tournaments. She even said that the president of their university is “well involved” with the wheelchair basketball programme. Dunkin specified that one day she would like the American College league to be as big as the professional leagues in Germany, Italy and Spain.
Lindsay has only been playing wheelchair basketball for 18 months and has been involved with the national team for a year. She is one of Australia’s fastest-rising prospects. She joined UTA in January
At the age of 17 she suffered an injury that ended her able-bodied basketball career. Soon after the injury, one of her friends suggested that she should try out wheelchair basketball with the local team in Canberra. At the training session, she was told that she would be eligible for classification as a 4.5 due to grade 4 cartilage damage in her right knee.
It was her dream to play able-bodied collegiate basketball in the USA before her injury. Now, she is able to live out that dream, playing wheelchair basketball at collegiate level.
Before applying to UTA, the 20-year-old has previously played for the Canberra Chargers at local level as well as committing to travelling three hours to play for the Sydney University Flames team in the Australian Women’s National League on top of the Australian women’s national team.
Lindsay hopes “to win a championship with the team” but also wants to focus on “building on and off the court relationships with teammates” as it’s a difficult task coming in halfway through the season.
Morgan was first introduced to wheelchair basketball in 2007 when she was 14, she attended a camp for children with disabilities as she has Spina Bifida. At the camp, she met Dan Onskt who coached the Music City Thunder team at the time. When the camp finished she started playing for the team in the NWBA junior division. She has also played for the Jackson Generals in Division 3 when she was in her first year of college at the University of Memphis.
Wood, originally from Gordonsville, Tennessee has been invited to camps at UTA since 2009 and started studying there in 2013 after transferring from Memphis. She has 18 months left before she graduates UTA. She has been involved with the USA programme since 2010 and made her senior debut in January 2017.
The 24-year-old says UTA is “definitely trying to win another championship. I know we can do it. It’s my goal to win another championship before I leave UTA.”
The 3.0 classification player thinks wheelchair basketball is developing in the American College league although, she cites funding as an issue for some teams as some universities struggle to fund scholarships. Despite this, she describes wheelchair basketball development as “on the up.”
Hollermann was involved in a car accident when she was five years old resulting in a T-11/T-12 incomplete spinal cord injury. After this, she started doing swim therapy at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley, Minnesota. She started competing in the swim team and through that she met Ben Kenyon who introduced her to wheelchair basketball.
The 21-year-old from Elysian, Minnesota started playing for the Minnesota Rolling Timberwolves junior team when she was seven, playing for them for 11 years until she turned 18. She started studying at UTA in 2013 and has one year left before she graduates, potentially looking to play basketball abroad after graduation. She has been involved in the USA programme since 2011 and is a 2x Paralympian, competing at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Her hopes and ambitions for UTA is to “get some redemption for last year and come back to win the championship. Alabama has a good team with a lot of Paralympians on it, I think UTA can give them a good run and take back the championship.”
The 3.5 classification player touched on the competitiveness of the American College league by saying: “every year we usually have three teams that are highly competitive and one team usually rebuilding. It’s great competition between the three teams.”
She commented on the development of wheelchair basketball in the league saying: “you definitely see development from season to season. I think right now, there’s more opportunities than ever for USA disabled athletes to get an education whilst playing sport.”
MAIN COMPETITION FOR THE TEAM
All of the women involved in this article stated that the University of Alabama will be UTA’s toughest competition this year.
Dunkin described Alabama’s team as a roster: “full of phenomenal players.” She stated that she is good friends with a few of the players off the court but, on the court “it’s a totally different story.” She thinks Canada’s Arinn Young and Rosalie Lelonde as well as Germany’s Babsi Gross are the main threats to watch out for as she remembered when Babsi “absolutely killed it in our championship game last year.” However, she doesn’t plan to underestimate any of their new additions to the team.
When asked this question, Lindsay responded by saying: “the main competition is definitely Alabama.” She continued: “it’s always going to be a strong team when they’ve got so many international athletes based there due to the strength of their programme.” She is looking forward to challenging herself, going up against players that are the same classification as her such as Arinn Young and Babsi Gross.
Wood believes the standard in the American College league is at a high level especially between UTA and Alabama. Wood compared UTA vs. Alabama to USA vs. Canada. She said: “Alabama have a lot of Canadians on their roster, so we go in with the same mentality as an international game.”
Hollermann said: “the toughest competition is definitely going to be the University of Alabama; their whole roster is a roster full of decorated Paralympians. They are going to be a really tough team to beat. I reckon UTA will go back and forth with them this season.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, you can follow me on Twitter: @DylanOnWheels www.twitter.com/DylanOnWheels Stay tuned for the next edition to this series.
Written by Dylan Cummings