Foray into wheelchair basketball raises some awareness of difficulty

LaSalle’s Tyrone Garland had his Southwest Philly Floater, I brought my South Williamsport Flailer.

Instead of crashing the boards, we crashed into each other.

You could time our fast break offense with a calendar.

Yes, wheelchair basketball takes a little getting used to. I entered a fundraising wheelchair basketball tournament Saturday at Lycoming College with the Sun-Gazette’s team thinking we had a chance. I had sat in a wheelchair more recently than a basketball game, though that was due to a bum ankle over the holidays.

The annual event is run by Roads to Freedom from the Center for Independent Living of North Central Pennsylvania, which seeks to help the disabled and their families.

We might not win much, but at least we’d score some. However, going 3-1/2 quarters without a basket took care of that.

Part of the difficulty was shooting from such a low angle because of being seated. It turned many of the shots into the line-drive heaves seen in an elementary school gym class.

Wheelchair basketball is mostly the same as the regular game, with some adaptations for people who require wheelchairs. We were simply there for the experience.

Instead of dribbling with each step, we had to dribble after every two pushes on the chair. Also, instead of calling fouls when players collide, fouls can be called when chairs collide. But on Saturday, the ref was “letting us play.”

We tried our best, but a 10-0 deficit to start our first game vs. Target insured a trip to the consolation bracket. Fortunately, we got a couple buckets late in a 12-4 defeat that boosted our confidence for the next game.

That confidence carried over against Larson Design Group as we took a quick 4-0 lead on two point-blank bank shots by entertainment editor Matt Parrish.

But, like any bunch of novices with a little success, we went cold. Couldn’t hit water if we fell out of a boat, though I did hit the floor after I?fell out of the chair trying to pivot too quickly for a rebound.

We were soon in overtime, and soon after that we were out of the whole thing after yet another halfcourt pass sailed over my teammates’ heads – it’s easy to forget people can’t jump.

And after just an hour in the chair, it’s easy to be thankful for two healthy legs and an appreciation for those who lack them.