JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) first ever Junior Division Basketball Tournament was held at Jackson Academy on Saturday.
The tournament is named after the Mississippi River and for some of these athletes this is their first competiton since the beginning of the pandemic.
Coaches, fans and players said they are all excited to back enjoying the game of basketball. There are 48 teams in the junior division of the NWBA across the country, four traveled to Jackson for Mississippi’s first Big River Classic. The home team in the competition is the Mississippi Wheelcats of Clinton. The assistant coach said it feels good not having to travel for a change.
“Traveling wears you down, so we were glad to stay home and be able to represent our state in our own state. Being able to play our sport and be able to represent our state in our own state. Being able to play our sport here is big. We’re the only youth wheelchair team in the state of Mississippi so being able to have a tournament here is phenomenal,” said Mississippi Wheelcats Assistant Coach Lindsay Lindsey.
Last year the NWBA season was cut short due to the pandemic. The announcement was made right before the National Championship.
“They have been so excited. Being able to be on the court together and having that friendship back. Last year, when we got to nationals, we were shutdown. We had teams that had made it to the hotel and had gotten word, we’re not having nationals anymore, we were just all depressed.”
Wheelcats’ point guard Clint West enjoys playing for the Clinton team for a variety of reasons.
“I like this team they play hard. I like the coach. West’s family encourages others to support the Mississippi Team and the NWBA.
“I have a new profound respect for the people in a wheelchair. I mean we take a lot of stuff for granted in life, but these guys and these girls really put it on the line in these wheelchairs. You should come out and support them. You won’t be disappointed at all.”
The players are very competitive. Coach Allred and his Lakeshore Lakers traveled from Birmingham for their first tournament of the year.
“Well, you know it’s always more fun when you’re winning, we’re 3-0, but it’s a good tournament,” said Coach Allred.
“Able bodied basketball and wheelchair basketball are a lot alike and competitiveness is one of the ones we are a lot a like,” said Coach Lindsey.
The other teams in the competition are the Atlanta Junior Hawks and the Dallas Junior Wheelchair Mavericks.