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7th Annual Wheelchair Basketball All-Star Tournament

7th Annual Wheelchair Basketball All-Star Tournament.

February 17th & 18th 2018

In case you missed the write-up from last year, here’s a little background on Orlando’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. In 2012 the city of Orlando hosted the NBA’s All Star Tournament, and our team decided it would be a great opportunity to showcase wheelchair basketball by hosting our own Tournament. The Orlando Magic Wheels have been a local NWBA Division 3 wheelchair basketball team for 25+ years, but it had been many seasons since we actually hosted a tournament. By coordinating with Orange County to obtain local gyms to play the games and raising funds through a generous grant from the Harper Foundation we had the basics to hold a tournament. Without going into all the details it takes to run this type of event, let’s just say that without all the planning, coordination, volunteers and the myriad of other donations we were able to secure, none of this would have been possible. Much less repeating those endeavors six more times. So every year on or around the NBA’s All Star break the Orlando Magic Wheels host our annual tournament.

Aside from the Orlando home team, this year’s tournament featured teams from Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Sunrise, Florida. Saturday’s games were set up with teams competing in 2 brackets. The Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets took the lead in their bracket by defeating both the Sunrise Suns and the Orlando Magic Wheels. On the 2nd Court, the Shepherd Stealers from Atlanta defeated both the Jacksonville Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks from Chicago. Following the initial bracket competitions, additional games were played by the to determine Sunday’s matchups. The Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks improved their chances to play for the Tournament title by defeating Orlando and Sunrise respectively.

On Sunday morning the two top teams – Charlotte and Shepherd dispatched LWSRA and Brooks to secure their places in the Championship game. The last 3 games of the Tournament would determine the final ranking for the weekend. In a low scoring contest the Orlando Magic Wheels hung on to defeat the Sunrise Suns for 5th place by a score of 24-19. The battle for 3rd place was a see-saw competition between The Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks in which neither team could get more than 4 points up on the other. Several missed shots by Brooks in the closing minutes sealed their fate as the Hawks outlasted them by a score of 38-36 for the 3rd place trophy. Congratulations to both teams for a most entertaining consolation game.

The final game of the day pitted 2 exceptional teams battling for 1st place, and it certainly lived up to the hype. In a game where Charlotte stormed off to an early lead Shepherd fought their way back in the 2nd half and almost pulled out the win. The Rollin’ Hornets were not to be denied though, and at the end they sank a couple of late free throws to seal their 1st place finish 52-49. Wow! What a fun game to watch!
Although the Orlando Magic Wheels didn’t finish on top this year we enjoyed the competition, and our Tournament is turning into a premier event of the NWBA season. I’m pretty sure the teams that participated really enjoyed themselves. I overheard one player from Chicago saying how much he loved being out of the snow and basking in the Florida sunshine. In addition, we may have attracted the attention of a couple potential sponsors - keep your fingers crossed. Anyway, thank you to the teams that traveled to our tournament and the Referees, volunteers, spectators and donors that made this such a success. We hope to see you again next year!

One final thought, the Orlando Magic Wheels weren’t nearly as successful as last year’s team, so we don’t expect to receive an invitation to the National Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Louisville, KY in April. However, there is always next year and hopefully we will keep improving and get back to our winning ways next season. In the mean time the team has several Middle School invitations in the coming months to promote disability awareness in the community thru exhibition games and interaction with the students.

Cinco de Mayo Exhibition Game 2017

Cinco de Mayo Exhibition Game 2017. 
Holy Cross Lutheran Academy in Sanford, FL
Friday, May 5th, 2017

The Orlando Magic Wheels were scheduled to play a wheelchair basketball exhibition game this morning at Holy Cross Lutheran Academy. We were slated to play on the school’s outside court which wasn’t a problem since we had been experiencing drought conditions recently. Then, as luck would have it, for the first time in almost 2 months the day started out with a heavy downpour. Fortunately, the deluge passed thru before we were scheduled to start at 9 AM. It went from overcast skies to bright sunshine in the blink of an eye and we were good to go. All we needed was a little maintenance for the court. So the 3rd & 4th grade students at Holy Cross got their brooms out and proceeded to sweep the standing water off the playing surface.

It can be interesting playing exhibition games at Grade Schools because their basketball courts are always unique. The court at Holy Cross was no exception. It wasn’t just that the court was still a little wet from the earlier rain, but that it had a decidedly awkward slope from side to side. Undaunted, the Magic Wheels players literally pushed up and down for about a half hour to the raucous chants of ‘Let’s go Magic!’ You gotta love an enthusiastic audience.

After we finished our exhibition game some of the more ambulatory members of the team gave up their sports wheelchairs so students could try them out. We monitored several short games with the kids in our chairs as they got a feel for just how difficult playing basketball while pushing a wheelchair could be. Everyone that wanted to try one out had a chance to participate in the fun. I saw a lot of great effort and smiles as they pushed around the court. Not to be outdone by their students we gave the teachers and their principle a chance to show off their wheelchair basketball skills. Who knew that those teachers were so competitive…

Cinco de Mayo Exhibition Game 2017.

Anyway, once we finished the live action on the court we had time for a few group photo opportunities. A couple of raccoons wandered over to the fence to see what was going on but apparently weren’t interested in getting their pictures taken and went back into the woods behind the school. We wrapped up the morning with a Q & A session with the Holy Cross 4th Graders. Actually that is the most important part of doing an exhibition game at a school – disability awareness. Whenever possible, the Magic Wheels try to make the time to educate and enlighten young people about the mysteries of living with a disability.

Thanks again to the Holy Cross Lutheran Academy’s faculity and students for their hospitality and enthusiasm!

2017 NWBA Championship Tournament

Team Championships 2017.  

Louisville, Kentucky


Wednesday, March 29th

Emily signs UTA 2017.

The Orlando Magic Wheels Division III team arrived in Louisville by car, van and plane on Wednesday. Everyone got here in time for practice at 6 PM at the Kentucky Expo Center. All across the convention center floor they have 12 temporary basketball courts set up and teams from 3 adult divisions and 3 junior divisions (96 teams in total) were holding practice. Obviously not all at once – each team scheduled 1 hour slots to get some warm ups in. Tomorrow the Tournament will begin at 10 AM with the Junior divisions beginning the competitions. To give you some idea of the complexities of transporting wheelchair athletes across the country, here’s what we encountered at Midway airport. Flying in from Orlando a couple of us switched planes in Chicago where we had an hour delay while they loaded 80 basketball chairs on the plane to Louisville. That was just from teams coming out of Arizona & Houston. Fortunately our team was able to transport all of our sports wheelchairs in a cargo van.

The Florida Conference was well represented this year by quality teams from across the state. From Miami the Division 1 Miami Heat Wheels are a top contender. The Tampa Bay Strong Dogs and the Ft. Lauderdale Sharks will be battling for the Division II trophy. Finally, in Division III the Jacksonville Brooks Ballers and the Orlando Magic Wheels are representing the state. Opening round games in all Divisions begin tomorrow.

Thursday, March 30th

Javi passing 2017.

Our 1st round game was at 2 PM against the Tuscon Lobos. Early success spoiled us when we had as much as an 8 point lead a few minutes into the 1st half. Needless to say, teams don’t get into the top 16 on their looks, and the Lobos came back. After our initial success we were clinging to a 5 point lead at half time. The Lobos started the 2nd half with a few quick buckets to take a 3 point lead. From then on it was back and forth with several lead changes. So with 4 minutes left in the game, the Magic Wheels were down by 3. We turned up the pressure and finally pulled ahead on the strength of our free throw shooting. Final score 53-47!

Unfortunately the other Florida teams playing at 2 PM didn’t fare so well. Both Jacksonville and Tampa lost their opening games and will compete in the loser’s bracket at 6 tonight. At 4 PM the last 2 Florida teams – Miami from Division 1 & Ft. Lauderdale from Division II also lost their 1st round contests. All 4 Florida teams played their 2nd games at 6 & 8 PM. It was another tough round for the Florida Conference – only Miami won their game this evening, bummer!

Friday, March 31st

Free throws 2017.

This morning’s game saw us competing against the 4th ranked Rancho Renegades. It was another close game in the 1st half with the Magic Wheels managing only a 3 point half time lead. The 2nd half continued being a close game with several lead changes. Things got better with about 6 minutes left when we finally took the lead for good. Another late surge and a bit of tenacity had the Orlando Magic Wheels bringing down the Renegades 56-44.

All of the other Florida teams played today to establish where they finished in the Tournament. Tampa & Ft. Lauderdale both got past their Division II opponents handily and will play each other on Saturday for 13th place. Jacksonville played the Triad Trackers for a shot at 13th place. Unfortunately they lost in OT after all but 2 of their players fouled out. So they finished regulation with only 4 players and ended up playing 2 on 5 – Yikes! Tomorrow they play the Spartanburg Pistons to stay out of the cellar. Miami’s Division 1 opponent was the TIRR Hotwheels whom they defeated. They will play the Seattle Sonics on Saturday for 9th place.

Saturday, April 1st

2017 starters.

Semi-finals this morning against the #1 ranked Division III team, the LWSRA Hawks from South Chicago. Turns out they weren’t the top ranked team for nothing. We just couldn’t match their speed and got beaten soundly 64-35. Ouch!

When 4 PM rolled around we were ready to take on the #2 seeded Las Vegas Yuccas. We held them in check in the 1st half and even held a slim lead at half time. In the 2nd half we went back and forth with several lead changes. Then with about 8 minutes left the Yuccas pulled ahead and we never did catch up. At the end their free throw shooting was our demise and the final score was 61-48. So the Orlando Magic Wheels finished in the final 4, not too shabby.

Although we finished just out of the trophy and medal awards we accomplished something much more important. After the game our own 18 year old HS Senior Emily Clarke signed a Letter of Intent to go to the University of Texas Arlington. Her College Scholarship to play wheelchair basketball with the Dallas Rollin’ Mavs was one of the objectives we had for this Tournament. We still have one more player, 23 year old Jake Crespo who is being pursued by several colleges to play wheelchair basketball. He should know which school will select him in the next couple of weeks but is pinning his hopes on the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Warhawks! Jake currently attends Daytona Community College to get his grades in line for that scholarship.

How did the other Florida Conference teams do? The Jacksonville Brooks Ballers defeated the Spartanburg Pistons to finish in 15th place. In Division II the Ft. Lauderdale Sharks and the Tampa Bay Strong dogs played a close game with many lead changes with the Sharks pulling out the win to take 13th place. In Division 1 the Miami Heat Wheels finished with a win over the Seattle Sonics 66-58 for a 9th place finish. Congratulations to the Florida Conference teams for their competitive play in Louisville this year!

Sunday, April 2nd

Jim and Joyce 2017.

Championship games for all Divisions were played this afternoon. In Division 1 the Dallas Mav’s played an exciting double OT game against the New York Rollin’ Knicks. The Knicks had opportunities at the end of regulation and at the end of the 1st OT to win but missed their opportunities and finally fell to Dallas by a couple of points. In the Division II finally the other Dallas team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the DII Championship. Dallas took home a lot of hardware! As for the DIII Championship the LWSRA Hawks faced off against a very powerful Oklahoma Raptors team. It was a terrific close game all the way but the Raptors had a player that was deadly from 3 point range and he scored a single game Tournament high of 54 points! Anyway, Oklahoma upset the #1 Hawks by 9 points and they are the new DIII Champions.

After all the success we had this weekend the Orlando Magic Wheels still weren’t done. Awards were given for various individual accomplishments during the Tournament. Two of our players were voted to the DIII All Tournament Team! Congratulations to Jack Roudabush and Javier Rodriguez for their amazing play, and to our other starters for an excellent Tournament. Last but not least, our Player/Coach, Joyce Kania Prakke, was selected to receive the DIII National Sportsmanship Award! Congratulations to our entire team, volunteers, sponsors and supporters for a wonderful Season!

 

disAbility Awareness Day 2017

disAbility Awareness Day2017.

At Tavares Middle School on Friday, March 10th, several Magic Wheels players along with Ray Beers from the Jacksonville team participated in the school's 9th annual disAbility Awareness day. A very enthusiastic group of 6th graders assembled in the gym for our exhibition game & a good time was had by all.

After lunch we were invited to speak to those same 6th grade students in their classrooms. It's always an enriching experience sharing our life experiences with these young people. Thanks to all those involved with making the day such a fun learning experience! And a special thank you to Michelle Metheny for coordinating this event year after year! We'll be back for the 10th annual disAbility Awareness day next year!

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Every Tuesday
6pm to 8pm
Silver Star Rec Center
2801 N. Apopka-Vineland Road
Orlando, FL 32818
Please contact Jim Moore at 407.399.3920 to confirm practice times.