Creating a winning team for wheelchair athletes

April 11, 2018 By eastern247
EWU wheelchair club team

Eastern Washington University (EWU) and Spokane Hoopfest Association (Spokane Hoops) are teaming up to promote wheelchair basketball at all levels in the Spokane area.

With EWU having recently launched a wheelchair basketball club team, and Spokane Hoops’ iconic 3on3 basketball tournament, Hoopfest, the partnership will create a bright future for para-athletics in the community.

The EWU wheelchair club team is the first to be formed at a university in the western United States and is moving toward developing an NCAA wheelchair basketball program this fall. The club team has already experienced success, taking second place in their division at the Best of the West Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Seattle.

Eastern received a $50,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to establish the parasport program.

“EWU is grateful to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and Hoopfest for supporting this program,” says Donna Mann, associate dean of EWU’s College of Health Science and Public Health. “Part of our initial goal will be to demonstrate the incredible enthusiasm the Spokane community has toward supporting major athletic events.”

Three of the starters on the EWU team have previously competed in the wheelchair division at Spokane Hoopfest, including student Jeremy Weaver – an 18-year veteran of the tournament, having started in the inaugural junior division of Hoopfest in 2000.

Spokane Hoops Association is an avid supporter of the wheelchair basketball initiative at EWU and over the years has worked closely with ParaSport Spokane and Team St. Luke’s to provide venues to meet the competitive and accessibility needs of para-athletes.

Opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities are substantially expanding in the Spokane region.

“Our organization strives to bring basketball to our region for all athletes,” says Matt Santangelo, executive director of Spokane Hoops. “Any opportunity to introduce new programming or reach new athletes, we stand behind and support 100 percent!”

There are more than 1.3 million physically impaired persons in the U.S., some recovering from injuries or limb-loss sustained in military conflict, personal injury or through disease. Physical rehabilitation and athletic pursuits are identified as methods for restoring these persons to physical and emotional well-being.

EWU and Hoopfest are proud to provide opportunities to these community athletes.