Defending champion Warhawks wheelchair basketball teams host national tournament
WHITEWATER The practice gyms at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater are filled with the dribble, swish, and crash of Warhawk wheelchair basketball teams as they prepare for the new season.
The men’s and women’s teams both won national championships last season, and they’ll face tough competition at a home tournament Nov. 16 and 17 at Kachel Fieldhouse.
Six women from last year’s team are returning for the program’s fifth season, including three 2012 Paralympians. UW-Whitewater senior Mareike Adermann, whose German team tookhome Paralympic gold, said the team has a lot of talent.
“I think we’re one of the best teams again, and we’re fighting for back-to-back national championships,” Adermann said.
Freshmen Laura Fuerst and Yarden Hershko bring even more international experience to the women’s team. Fuerst played in the first-ever World Championships for the German nationalteam last year, and Hershko played on her Israeli team in the 2011 Europeanchampionship as well as the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation’s Challenge Cup.
Meantime, the men’s team will work for an eleventh national title.
“We do have 10 freshmen on our team which is a huge rebuilding year,” said Jeremy Lade, head coach of the men’s team. While the team’s two top scorers graduated, Lade is confident the new recruits and the five returning athletes will fill in the gaps.
Players and coaches are excited to see Warhawk fans fill the stands at these games, which are as intense and enthralling as any stand-up sports.
“It is not about disabilities,” Adermann said. “It’s about real competition. It is amazing what people can do in wheelchairs, and I just think it’s really impressive for people to understand that a person with a disability can do things that even some without a disability can’t do.”
Lade reminds fans that wheelchair basketball is not available on every campus, and watching the sport is a unique experience.
"I think when fans see it for the first time, they see the wheelchair and they see people falling over and it's all a little bit shocking," Lade said. "But then by the end of the game, they're excited about the sport -- not the wheelchair, not the equipment, not people falling down, but the sport itself -- and we always get people coming back. They absolutely love it."
The first tournament will be played in the David L. Kachel Fieldhouse. The series of games begin at noon on Nov. 16 and 10 a.m. on Nov. 17. Download the full schedule of men’s and women’s games from http://www.uww.edu/recsports/wcathletics/mens/schedule.html. All UW-Whitewater wheelchair basketball games are free to attend.