In this edition of the series I will be documenting the wheelchair basketball careers of three international players who study at The University of Alabama. Alabama have a highly successful women’s intercollegiate programme as they were 2017 champions and 2018 runners-up in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) women’s intercollegiate national championship finals.
First up is Canadian international Arinn Young. The 21-year-old is classified as a 4.5 due to cartilage damage in her knee. Young got introduced to wheelchair basketball seven years ago by a family friend saying that: “As soon as I got injured he got me to start coming to practice and that’s how my love for the game all started.” Before starting Alabama, Young played for several club teams in her home province of Alberta, Canada including; Edmonton Inferno, Alberta Northern Lights and Team Alberta U23s. She is in currently in her third year of university.
She hopes to win another national title with the team in the remaining two years she has left in the institution. She believes that whether Alabama win or lose national titles, they are confident in their style of play and are one of the top teams in the collegiate division which is an achievement in and of itself. “We [the team] want to show people that Alabama is a team you don’t want to play against because we’re really successful on offence and defence, we’re confident in the way we play. We want to continue to grow the legacy that’s here in Alabama.”
The team currently have a squad of nine players, the mentality the team share is described as “9 Strong” meaning that: “No matter who’s on court it’s like one big family.” Alabama have been through some changes over the last 12 months such as a change in coaching staff and team rosters. Arinn believes the team adapted well to these changes saying that: “We couldn’t hang on to the negatives that have happened and we knew we had to move forward as a team.”
Young gave her thoughts on the competition in the colligiate league, saying that all five teams “bring something to the table as they’re all extremely competitive. The competition level is high as you’re pushing against some of the best Paralympians in the world.” She feels the league is “heading in the right direction” with regards to development. Through the years as the league has progressed it has encouraged Paralympians like herself and others to want to come and play at collegiate level in America.”That just shows how much the collegiate programme has developed.”
Outside the collegiate league Alabama also play a few men’s teams as well as playing a friendly against GB late last year. “We get to compare where we are compared to everyone else and not just in our league. We get to see where we need to be and how we need to improve.”
Arinn has been involved with the Canadian women’s senior squad for the past four years after making her debut at the 2014 World Championships in the capital city of her home contry, Toronto, Canada. She is grateful that Alabama have a good relationship with her national team. “Both sides really communicate well with each other about our plans. Alabama plan their training timetable perfectly so we [Arinn and Rosalie] can attend our annual October camp, making it a very smooth transition back and forth which we’re grateful for.”
Babsi was first introduced to wheelchair basketball when her physiotherapist put her into contact with the German club RSV Lahn Dill when she was 12-years-old. She is classified as a 4.5 after being in a car accident when she was eight, which resulted in damage to her cartilage and meniscus. She has been playing the sport for 12 years and has played for clubs such as; RSV Lahn Dill (8 seasons) and the Mainhatten Skywheelers (2 seasons) before coming to Alabama. She has been involved with the German women’s senior national team since 2015. After university, she has ambitions to play back in Germany but is unsure what club she’ll play for.
The 24-year-old is in her second year of university. She hopes to win another national championship whilst at Alabama. When talking about the competition in the league she noted that there are “some skill level differences” as she thought Alabama and UTA are the top two teams in the league and the other three teams are evenly matched due to losing some key players they had in previous seasons.
Babsi continued by touching on the development of the colligate league by saying that “a couple years ago a lot of national team players were spread throughout all the teams whereas now a lot of national team players tend to go to either Alabama or UTA.” Overall, Gross believes the development of the league is on the rise.
Lalonde was introduced to the sport by her physiotherapist when she was 14-years-old. She was reluctant to play the game at first but after a few months she began to love it. At club level she has played for all the Quebec province teams. She has been involved with Alabama for 18 months. She has ambitions to win a national title with the team. She made her debut for the Canadian women’s senior squad in 2015.
The 21-year-old also has ambitions to play for Canada in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics like she did in Rio. She says that after Tokyo she’ll see how she feels about basketball as she has “no idea” where she wants to play after she graduates Alabama but says that there are “lots of options” such as; going back to Canada and doing a master’s degree whilst playing in the Canadian league or going to Europe to play professionally.
The 3.0 classified player goes on to talk about the competition in the collegiate league saying, “I think the level dropped a little bit as a lot of good athletes graduated but the league is getting stronger again as new international players are coming to America to play in the college league.”
She continued by saying that “the league is appealing to a lot people from around the world” which is good for the overall development of the league “as it brings up the standard of the league to international standards.” It’s fun to play against a team with lots of different people from different countries as it brings the basketball community closer together.”
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