USA Wheelchair Basketball is out to capture Gold.
by Abigail Diaz
During the past month, we’ve seen USA Basketball dominate in the London Olympics. Time and time again, both the men and women of Team USA have proven their superiority above the rest.
Heading into the London Paralympics, USA Basketball finds itself in an unusual situation: being an underdog. If the USA is to have any hopes of taking home the Gold, it will likely have to face the best wheelchair basketball team in the world: Great Britain.
“The pressure comes from within,” Coach Jim Glatch told SLAMonline last week. “We look at basketball as our sport, and when we go over to international competition, it’s not our sport any more.”
Coach Glatch makes a point—wheelchair basketball is not an American sport. The Brits adapted the game and have dominated it for the last decade.
Veteran Olympian Matt Scott, who starred in Nike’s classic “No Excuses” commercial, has a theory on why the US doesn’t embrace wheelchair basketball like it does able-bodied basketball. “When [I] heard about wheelchair basketball, I just had this negative connotation,” Scott says. “I thought, I don’t want to play basketball with people in wheelchairs. I just thought it would be so slow, it wouldn’t be that competitive—I think that is the general consensus.”
“It’s just a lack of knowledge,” US point guard Steve Serio added. “I had the same perception—I don’t want to play with people in a wheelchair just because I am in a wheelchair.”
Serio, like most players on the wheelchair basketball team, quickly learned that those stereotypes are all fluff. If you’ve never seen a wheelchair basketball match, it’s incredibly fast and just as competitive as able-bodied basketball.
Scott put it plainly: “It’s a game that if you see it, you’re automatically sucked in. It’s really high-energy, high-contact, some really athletic plays going on, a lot of teamwork.”
But lack of exposure has always plagued the sport. With the majority of Americans having never seen the sport live, it’s hard for Olympic network NBC to invest in covering the game. As it stands today, NBC has confirmed that it will only be doing one 90-minute recap on the Paralympics and four 60-minute specials on its cable-only network, NBC Sports.
“This has been going on forever,” Coach Glatch adamantly said. But USA captain Paul Schulte gets it. Unlike Scott and Serio, he wasn’t born with his disability.
Schulte is used to the uninformed questions by now: “Is it still five-on-five? Yes it is. Is the basket still the same height? Yes it is, and we shoot three-pointers.” What about the same moves? “A crossover, a drop step on the baseline, a hesitation move, a pick… they’re all the same.”
Heading into the London Paralympic Games, Team USA will be comprised of nine returning Olympians and only three newcomers.
Coach Glatch knows that a fourth place finish simply won’t cut it this time around, stating, “We have done some things a little differently than we did with the world team. We brought in a little more size, a little more scoring, but defensively we have improved.”
For Scott, Serio and Schulte, they all know what’s on the line, and they want to win.
“If we play the best brand of USA Basketball that we possible can,” Scott says confidently, “I don’t think there is a team that’s going to stop us from accomplishing our goal.”
Although Team USA’s games can only be streamed online, it doesn’t matter—these men are pros at exceeding everyone’s expectations.