Wheelchair hoops comes to WC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

The smell of burning rubber from high performance wheelchair wheels filled the gym at Warren Central High on Wednesday.

The sounds of wheels rather than sneakers on the court meant the day was something far different from the norm, as the Mississippi Magic vs. Future Teachers of America wheelchair basketball game hit the court.

The goal was simple. Show off the talents of the team, athletes who have overcome disabilities, and give some lucky students the chance to take a seat in the chairs and play ball.

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The Magic, members of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, made their 11th visit to Warren Central and intend to keep it a regular stop as they raise awareness, one shot at a time.

“Awareness games like this one really get the word out,” Magic team president and captain James Clayton said. “We love to have players here or from anywhere around the state. I always know that there is a child out there who needs to know what we do and we’re living proof that you can do anything.”

Leading WC scorer Jeremy Harper was one who took the plunge into a chair and the experience for him was eye-opening. A run-and-gun guard, Harper found himself getting beaten to loose balls by the Magic.

“First of all, you’ve got to have arm strength to do this,” Harper said. “You’ve got to have it going up and down the court. It’s hard to shoot, even when you’re close to the goal.”

As for the Magic, they face stiff competition from the rest of the NWBA as they travel from Texas to Georgia in a season that starts in September. One of their players passed away last year, while standout Derrick Deutsch is playing college wheelchair basketball for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“We’re in a rebuilding stage right now,” Clayton said. “But we plan on coming back.”

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@vicksburgpost.com