CHARLOTTE (Steve Goldberg’s Wheel World) - With the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was a more fulfilling summer than most for basketball fans, giving those of us who love the sport a steady fix of competitive play when we would otherwise be looking ahead.
We got to see the brilliance of LeBron James and Patrick Anderson as they dominated their respective tournaments. We saw the German women shed the bridesmaid label with their first major championship.
The gift of London was fleeting though. We need more.
It’s that time of year here in the US of A now. The air is getting cooler and the leaves are changing colors. While the distractions of college football and the NFL are still in motion, basketball is beginning in earnest.
The NBA season opens this week. College programs have all begun official practice and where I come from, in North Carolina, that’s almost a religious holiday.
Collegiate wheelchair basketball teams, on the other hand, are already in season. The men’s and women’s teams at the University of Illinois, the spiritual cornerstone for wheelchair basketball opened their first weekend of play against Southwest Minnesota State University going a collective 4-0.
On the international front, important regional competitions have already been played.
The Kitakyushu International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament of Champions was played this past weekend in Japan featuring the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks (USA), Wollongong Roller Hawks (AUS), Galatasaray (TUR), and MAX Miyagi (JAP). The boys from Istanbul took home top honors with the Japanese side second in a 67-48 final while Dallas claimed third after avenging a previous loss to the Aussies 68-46.
Galatasaray were easily the class of the tournament, winning their four games by an average margin of just over 31 points with the closest being 19 in the final.
On another island far far away was the Central American and Caribbean Wheelchair Basketball Regional Finals.
It was played in San Juan, Puerto Rico where Mexico held off the hosts 61-56 for the gold medal. Mexico was led by Saul Garcia with 22, Manuel Ortega with 15 and Carlos Diaz with 14 while Carlos Ocasio with 21 and Jose Calderon with 16 paced Puerto Rico. In the bronze medal match, El Salvador topped Nicaragua 62-48 behind Rafael Melgar’s 32 points.
All four teams advance to the Americas Cup in 2013 where they will compete for one of the four spots the available for the 2014 World Championships that will be held in Korea.
Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan congratulates David Kiley, an honoree at the NBA team’s My Hero Gala. Kiley is head coach of the USA Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team as well as the Charlotte Rollin’ Bobcats junior teams. Photo: Charlotte Bobcats/Bob Leverone
Also this past weekend, the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and team owner Michael Jordan held their fifth My Hero Gala, an event created to support the Cats Care Foundation, which focuses on improving health and education while battling hunger in the community.
One honoree was USA Paralympic women’s team coach and National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Hall of Famer David Kiley. Along with his national team duties, Kiley has been the head coach for the local Charlotte Rollin’ Bobcats junior teams.
“I’ve been on the front line of basketball my entire life,” said Kiley.
“I’m blessed to have kids who call me coach,” he followed, evoking the spirit of the great teacher of the game John Wooden, who chronicled his philosophies of basketball and life in a book titled, “They Call Me Coach”.
And this is where it all comes together. Some of the kids who have called Kiley coach include Illinois players Jacob Tyree and Lindsey Good, both former junior Bobcats, and Galatasaray’s Matt Scott.
Kiley went on to summarize why the game is so compelling for most of us.
“The beauty is in the struggle. We have to be willing to struggle to find the beauty.”
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