UW-W to host hoops championships

John Miller, Staff Writer

The 2017 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NIWBT) is set to be hosted by UW-Whitewater March 9-11. The men’s (20-4) and women’s (11-8) UW-Whitewater wheelchair basketball teams will participate in separate tournaments, alongside teams from across
the country.

For the men’s team, the Warhawks will be looking to capture a fourth national championship in just as many years. Head coach Jeremy Lade started his tenure as the UW-W head coach in 2009, and has taken six national titles back to Whitewater. Lade said he is not alone in winning the titles.

“A lot of credit has to go to the athletes and the amount of work that they put in and the dedication they have towards our campus and towards our wheelchair basketball program,” Lade said. “When we bring in athletes that buy into the system and put in the work, both academically and on the court, then we’ve been very fortunate to put ourselves in a position to be successful at the end of
the season.”

On the women’s side, new Warhawk head coach Christina Schwab took the reins this season for three-time national champion Dan Price. Although this is Schwab’s first year as the Warhawks coach, she doesn’t lack experience when it comes to the game of basketball.

Schwab’s basketball history is highlighted by three Paralympic gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2016, and an eight-year coaching run at the junior level. With the program under a rebuild of sorts, Schwab says she wants to build team culture.

“We have a team motto that came up in the first semester,” Schwab said. “We always say we’re going to out work them. It’s kind of our focus for the season, that were going to just out work anybody we play.”

This year’s national tournament will provide a unique experience for the Warhawk coaches and players as they will be able to compete in front of friends and family on their home court.

“The really cool thing for us is that it gives our student body, our facility, our staff on campus a chance to come out and support the wheelchair basketball program,” Lade said. “In wheelchair basketball we travel long distances to play and we don’t get very many home tournaments.”

Although it will be a unique experience for the players, coach Lade says there are certain challenges that come along with playing at home.

“As soon as you start hosting things and it’s in your hometown, it ultimately adds to the list of distractions that you have to worry about.” Lade said.

There are advantages that come with playing at home. Coach Schwab says that home court will have a positive influence on her team.

“It’s our home, it’s a part of us,” Schwab said. “I think it’s providing a lot of motivation for them. I have three seniors on the squad this year as well, and they’d like to go out playing here for Whitewater.”

With the tournament being played under National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) rules, each team must abide by a classification system. Players are classified on a scale of 1-4.5, with higher scores on the scale indicating a more able-bodied player.

The players on the court for a single team cannot exceed 15 points, otherwise a technical foul is given. Coach Lade said that the best strategy within the classification system is not over complicating the numbers and simply finding five players that play well together.

Although it may be easy for some coaches and players to become solely fixated on raising the championship trophy, Schwab says she’s more concerned about the process to get there.

“It’s about the journey,” Schwab said. “These girls are playing together for a championship, obviously, that’s an end goal, but we like to find our small victories throughout the season.”

The No. 2 seeded men will begin their title defense March 9 when they take on No. 7 seeded Southwest Minnesota State University. The No.3 seeded women also begin March 9 vs. No. 2 seeded University of Alabama. All games will take place in the Williams Center with
free admission.