WOODS CROSS, Utah -- Student athletes from Woods Cross took to the basketball court in wheelchairs earlier this week, and some of them were new to the experience while others were regular competitors in the sport.
The event was a fundraiser for Utah Rush, a Jr. wheelchair basketball team, and the funds will go toward helping the team travel to a national competition put on by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
The members of Utah Rush are between the ages of 12 and 18, and each of them have some form of spinal cord injury. It’s a sport that requires hard work and dedication, and team members said the event in Woods Cross was wonderful.
“It’s a blast! It's a great time, it's a good time for families to come out, support us, help us get to nationals,” said Adam Lindsay, the team's assistant coach.
Joshua Poulson plays point guard for the Rush, which is something he loves to do.
“I mean, ever since the first day I got in a chair, I've always wanted to push, and I've always loved pushing,” he said. “And, I've never looked back, and I’ve never thought of doing anything else.”
As part of their fundraising efforts, Utah Rush plays against high school athletes around Utah, some of whom don’t regularly play basketball—let alone while in a wheelchair.
Lindsay said the squad takes the edge their experience gives into account when they play at such events.
“They’re holding back a little bit,” Lindsay said. “So yeah, absolutely, they kind of play to their competition a little bit. So yeah, they're holding back just a little bit.”
Tanner Hammond plays baseball for Woods Cross high School, and he said the game of wheelchair basketball is very demanding.
“You know, I thought I was an athlete until I sat down in one of these, and I just have the most respect for the kids who do this all the time,” Hammond said.
Lindsay said they don’t expect their exhibition-match opponents to excel, as the sport requires expertise.
"They can't stop their chairs, they have a hard time turning, things like that, so, yeah: It takes a lot of time,” Lindsay said. “It takes about three years to really develop good chair skills to play wheelchair basketball."
Tanner said the more-experienced players of Utah Rush were excellent on defense, forcing his team into the "freaking impossible" situation of having to shoot from half court regularly.
Mascots from around Utah even get in on the fun, playing their own version of the game. All of the funds raised from ticket sales go toward getting Utah Rush back to nationals, where the team placed second last year.
Lindsay said it costs between $5,000 and $8,000 for the team to travel to a weekend tournament, and he said they try to attend about five or six such tournaments each year.
Paulson said he would like to expand their events beyond high school teams, and he said he thinks it would be fun to play against college athletes from schools like the University of UTah.
For more information about the team or to donate toward their trip to nationals, visit the group’s Facebook page.