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BWB Asia stars join in wheelchair basketball clinic

Basketball without Borders (BWB) Asia moved to the Geelong Arena on Sunday, with a special Jr. NBA wheelchair basketball event kicking off BWB’s final day. NBA legends David Robinson, Jerry Stackhouse and Bruce Bowen joined in the fun along with current NBA stars Khris Middleton, Dante Exum and Aron Baynes climbing into wheelchairs to play alongside 30 boys and girls from around Victoria. The event was run by the NBA and NBL in conjunction with the State Government of Victoria and Basketball Victoria. Karen Pearce, BV’s Manager of Strategic Operations and head of its inclusion department, viewed the morning as a roaring success. “An event like today, having these NBA and NBL stars here – and having them actually joining in with these kids on the floor – it’s fantastic,” Pearce said. “These kids are having an absolute ball here today, showcasing their ability in a chair, and we’re really grateful, just as these kids are.” Those involved in the clinic ranged from 7 to 24 years of age and included both kids with a disability and able-bodied players. Some had years of experience in their chairs, while others, like 17-year-old Harry Lynch from Ouyen, Victoria, are still getting used to their wheels. “I had an accident while practicing for a big motor-cross race 14 weeks ago,” Lynch explained. The accident left Harry paralysed from the waist down, officially classified as a T4 paraplegic. One of the Leisure Specialists from the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre has recently introduced him to wheelchair hoops. “I actually hated basketball before the accident but this is a lot more fun. I don’t know why but I just enjoy it so much more in the wheelchair.” Lynch is now looking to play as much as possible, even dreaming of a possible future as part of the Australian Rollers. “That’s the dream,” he said. “To travel around the world playing wheelchair basketball would be awesome.” Today marked a crucial next step in that journey; a chance to meet others who play the game and mix with some of the world’s biggest basketball names. “Having those stars the same as them, doing basketball in a chair, it’s amazing,” Pearce said. “And the best bit: the kids are actually teaching the NBA stars how to do it. David Robinson hasn’t stepped out of the chair since he got in – he’s having an absolute ball.” Of course, there’s no pressure for the stars to actually strap in to a chair, that’s a personal choice. A choice easily made. “It’s good to identify with what the kids are going through so to be able to jump in that chair and see how things change, your perspective and limitations,” Robinson said. “To see those kids with the joy in their faces, knowing what they have to deal with day by day, that’s pretty encouraging,” he added. “The more that those kids can know that people love them and encourage them that goes a long way.” Stackhouse, a two-time NBA All-Star, spent the morning dishing out high-fives. He was impressed with the skills and competitiveness on display. “They were coming in and locking their wheels into my chair, making sure I couldn’t move,” Stackhouse laughed. “Those dudes have all the tricks.” For Brady Cochrane, an 8-year-old from Melbourne, seeing Robinson in the chair – just like him – was a genuine thrill. “It was so cool that I could meet him and talk to him,” Brady said. “Meeting NBA and NBL players and coaches... some people think that they can’t meet these people but they can!” Brady was born with clubfeet and has had his chair for about three years. He’s part of a Basketball Victoria development program that trains every fortnight at the State Basketball Centre. As he grows, Brady will have the chance to play competitively. “I’m lucky to be able to play this kind of sport and meet these kinds of people. It’s really fun for me and it’s exciting,” he said with a smile that lit up the Arena. “When I’m in able-bodied basketball I’m normally slower than half of the other kids, but in this I’m like the fastest.” Brady’s mother, Leigh McGregor, believes wheelchair basketball has had a hugely positive impact on her son’ life – highlighted by this morning’s event. “Honestly, today has been the best day of his life,” McGregor said. “Wheelchair basketball brings everybody to the same level, so for Brady it’s been great for his confidence and it’s allowed him to meet lots of new people, including people with different disabilities.” McGregor was rapt to see Robinson, Stackhouse, Middleton, Exum and Baynes sitting in the chairs. “It’s so good for the kids to see that,” she said. “To see that the NBA stars want to have a go and try what I can do – they want me to each them! For the kids, that’s a fantastic thing.” In the end it was Stackhouse, the two-time NBA All-Star, who probably said it best. “It’s like anything, man,” he said. “You lose one thing, you get stronger in something else.”
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