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Wheelchair basketball camp gives players the fundamentals

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This past weekend, wheelchair basketball players of all different ages, skill sets and affiliations with the University of Arizona converged at the south gym of the UA’s Student Recreation Center for a summer wheelchair basketball camp.

Both the men’s and women’s teams were well represented.

Over the weekend, Jenn Poist, Team USA's wheelchair basketball coach, was impressed by "the number of athletes that we have here this weekend."

Arizona Athletics has had a championship pedigree for many years now in a variety of sports. The wheelchair basketball program is starting to get that same taste of success.

Arizona’s men’s wheelchair basketball team had a breakout performance this past season in the Toyota National Adult Division I Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Tallmadge, Ohio in March 2018. There, the ‘Cats finished third, an improvement on the years prior. 

“Last year’s third place finish was awesome,” men’s Head Coach Mike Beardsley said. Beardsley has been with the team for nine seasons.

This year's camp was the first co-ed camp, with the last few years being an exclusive girls camp.

UA features a unique opportunity for adaptive athletes, as they are one of the only premiere colleges on the west coast to field an adaptive athletics program. 

Roberto Cruz, a native of Riverside, Calif., has only been playing basketball for a year.

The camp offered him an opportunity to improve his skills by facing others with different backgrounds.

“When I started playing with people who were 15- to 20-year veterans, I never learned fundamentals,” Cruz said. "So coming here, they were teaching me fundamentals that I didn’t learn back home with my team.”

The camp started Friday night, July 12, with layup lines and drills, followed by about 30 minutes of scrimmaging for both the men’s and women’s teams. 

Stephen Hernandez, an incoming UA freshman from Phoenix, has high expectations for the team's first year back in the collegiate ranks 

“I got really high hopes for this team," Hernandez said. "We got a bunch of talent and new players so I’m really excited for this season."

Garnett Silver-Hall is a high school senior and UA team hopeful. He said having the adaptive athletics program is an important opportunity for him.

“It means a lot for me, just seeing more opportunities for people with disabilities around the country, and I think UA is definitely spearheading this as a trend,” Silver-Hall said.

Another camper, Michelle Bautista, is no stranger to the game of basketball. She’s been playing for 10 years. 

Just like Poist, Bautista — who considers herself a shooter — was also ecstatic to see the turnout of this camp.

“The first year I went, it was just women, and now its all combined now,” Bautista said.

Saturday brought more drills and more opportunities for the campers to improve their games.

Beardsley and Poist, along with their coaches and staff, walked through each drill and stepped in to help the campers while they practiced. 

Saturday’s afternoon session ended with a game of five-on-five, with two teams of campers and one team of coaches. 

Eric Francis, one of the campers, enjoyed the challenge of playing against the coaches.

“It was a challenge because they are faster and have more experience,” he said. “But you just got to communicate with your teammates ... just try your best, its gonna be hard anyways."

Sarah Heinzl, a coach at the camp, said she was impressed by what she saw from the campers during the quick scrimmage. “They definitely gave us a run for our money."


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