Basketball team

Freewheel: ‘EWU Wheelchair Basketball Team and Community Kickstart Return of Hoopfest

Hoopfest made its pandemic comeback on wheels on Friday.

Three members of the Eastern Washington University wheelchair basketball team, community leaders and members of the public strapped to wheelchairs for an exhibition game at Hoopfest’s Center Court at the exterior of the American Pavilion at Riverfront Park.

Attendees included Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier, American Ninja Warrior and former Gonzaga point guard Sandy Zimmerman and KHQ anchor Sam Adams.

Zimmerman scored a few buckets, including a layup to start the game after a nice hoop cut. But the former point guard said she was more proud of her assists.

“It was just a great opportunity to get out there and see some great athletes,” she said.

Zimmerman said she realized wheelchair basketball was a lot like the sport she was good at. Backdoor cuts, concessions, screens – they’re all used in both sports.

She said one difference was that she had to use her arms as the main source of energy instead of her legs to pull in the wheelchair. She said she learned that a flying start to the hoop helped propel her shot to the basket.

“I think any time you can try to put yourself in someone else’s situation, it always gives you a better understanding,” Zimmerman said.

Bob Hunt, one of three EWU players on Friday, said he likes the team environment and the culture the new team is building. The team’s first season was in 2020 and the players have just completed their first full season without a COVID-19 break this year.

“We’re here to show people that we’re not here just for fun,” Hunt said. “We are (like) all the other college teams in the East.”

David Evjen, head coach of the EWU wheelchair basketball team, said there are differences between wheelchair basketball and the regular games people watch on TV , but “basketball is basketball. These guys are thugs.

“It’s the same thing,” he said. “It just looks a little different.”

The team is part of EWU’s Adaptive Athletics program, which created the first National Wheelchair Basketball Association collegiate team in the Northwest.

Donna Mann, acting dean of the College of Health Sciences and Public Health, said she started the team by raising funds through grants and donors.

Mann said she wants the community to support the team, and Friday’s showcase was one way to do that.

“Our mission is to create an avenue to college for any athlete, right? And the Adaptive Athletics program is what it does for us,” she said. simply shows people with disabilities, whether they were born with them or acquired them, that there is a place for them at EWU, and that they can play collegiate sports just like anyone else. ‘other.”

Lance Kissler, associate vice president of university relations, said the school wanted to hold the event at last year’s Hoopfest, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.

“We thought it would be a great way to let the community know about it and showcase what we have at the university,” Kissler said.

New EWU president Shari McMahan traveled to the area on Tuesday and gathered for her first Hoopfest experience on Friday.

“Everyone has the right to participate in competitive sports, and it gives them an opportunity,” McMahan said of the wheelchair team.