The University of Southern Mississippi Technology Learning Center (TLC) Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team closed out its first season by winning the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Gulf Coast Conference Championship held at Jackson State University.
The weekend-long tournament featured six teams from southeastern states vying for the title of NWBA Gulf Coast Conference Champion.
Members of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team for the 2011-2012 season include team captain Theodore “Teddy” Alvis, Timothy Atchison Jr., Edward Barnard, Claire Buchanan, Christopher Chavez, Blake Loftin, Gene Roberts III, and Coach Gil Spann, who also plays for the team.
The team, being new to the NWBA, is not currently nationally ranked. Competing in two national tournaments, the team placed second in both tournaments to the same nationally-ranked team. “I have played wheelchair basketball for 20 years and this team is very fresh, very energetic and has very strong potential to be a nationally-ranked team,” said Alvis.
As a member of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, the mission of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball teamis to provide people with various disabilities the opportunity to compete with fellow athletes and to promote awareness for people with disabilities.
“Recreation is so vital to good health, and good health is a goal for everyone,” said Dr. Royal Walker, executive director for the Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) at Southern Miss. “IDS is excited to be able to support the TLC Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team. With everyone encouraged to be more physically active for better health these days, it’s great to have these athletes leading the way for our coast community.”
In addition to the Gulf Coast Conference Championship and two national tournaments, the team played three non-conference tournaments during the season. The team is getting ready for the next season, which begins in September.
“We would like more players to carry a team of 10,” added Alvis. “We recruit through our affiliation with the Veterans Affairs, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, word-of-mouth and the Wounded Warrior Project, to name a few.”
Interested persons who want to be part of the Golden Eagle wheelchair basketball team have to be physically unable to play regulation stand-up basketball. The current team includes members with spinal cord injuries, birth defects, war veterans and accident victims. As a team within the NWBA, the TLC Golden Eagles join over 130 wheelchair basketball teams competing on a national level.
“The TLC Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team has made some extraordinary accomplishments with this being the first year of the program,” said Ashley-Nicole Ross Flowers, coach and TLC sponsor for the team. “We are grateful to the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services for giving us this grant which allows Southern Miss to have its own wheelchair basketball team.”
In addition to being the home of the Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team, TLC serves as a lending library of specialized adapted toys for children with disabilities and assistive technology for adults. TLC not only lends equipment, but provides evaluations and training on assistive technology for people with special needs. Additionally, TLC hosts adapted recreation and sports programs which offer children and adults the opportunity to enjoy leisure activities the same way as people without disabilities.
For more information about the Southern Miss Technology Learning Center, call 228.214.3400.