I never made my high school basketball team. They made me the waterboy.
The fact that I truly enjoyed my waterboy days should tell you how much I love to watch basketball. Maybe more than I love to play it. So this opportunity we’re talking about today was extra-special for me.
There are few things that create more incredible moments than college sports. And this tournament was our chance to help celebrate some unforgettable March madness memories, with the Intercollegiate Division of the NWBA.
What is the NWBA?
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association began in 1948, shortly after World War II. The Intercollegiate Division emerged in the 1970’s with just 4 teams. The league now has 9 men’s teams and 5 women’s teams.
Every year, they hold a national tournament for both the men’s and women’s league, and this year, we were so excited to be able to donate the tournament awards with our glass prints. We also spoke with Dug Jones, for more information about the organization.
Who is Dug Jones?
Dug Jones was a player and coach and is now the president of the intercollegiate division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
He had a spinal cord injury in high school, but was very athletic before that happened. He was finishing the rehabilitation process and adjusting to this new idea that he would spend the rest of his life using a wheelchair. That’s when he found out about wheelchair basketball. Little by little, he found himself getting more involved, and it became a very significant piece of his life.
“It allowed me to say you know what, I am still who I am. I still love competitive athletics. It keeps me fit, satisfies my urge for competition, connects me to these other active guys, who are not wallowing in whatever happened to them. They happen to have a disability, but that’s just a peripheral thing. They’re more about basketball than the disability.”
What’s the future for intercollegiate wheelchair basketball?
Currently, there are over 20 colleges and universities who are in the process of evaluating how this might fit and work on their campus, including the University of Florida (which is personally very exciting to Dug).
One of the ways that it’s gaining popularity at colleges is allowing for participation by able-bodied students. Allowing able-bodied students to play is actually unique to the intercollegiate division. But that’s because the student-athletes want an inclusive world and don’t want to be segregated.
“Their state of mind is to put them in a wheelchair and bring it on. Some of the able-bodied kids get really good at it, but they’re no better off than a kid with a disability who lost a foot to an accident. Once they’re sitting in a chair, they’re absolutely equal.”
In three years, Dug hopes the national tournament can include a total of 12 men’s teams and six women’s teams. And he’s ready to do whatever he can to help make that goal a reality. He’s determined to help the league grow as much as he can.
“That will ultimately make it a better world, not just for the disabled students, but for the 90% of students that are able-bodied whose lives are enriched by an experience that’s beyond their own context.”
We were so grateful to be given the opportunity to do what we could to help out. It’s an honor to help these student-athletes celebrate their unforgettable moments in the tournament, and we’re excited to see where the NWBA goes.
P.S. The final game of the men’s championship was quite a nailbiter down to the end. You can check out that video here.