Same game, different footing

The men’s basketball team found an unconventional, yet inspiring way to prepare for the upcoming season.

Besides the drills, whistles, and sprints, the team practices every Tuesday night in wheelchairs to support the Cincinnati Royals, a wheelchair basketball team in Cincinnati, headed by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC).

The Royals hold their practices at the Leblond Recreation Center in Cincinnati, along the banks of the Ohio River. Their practices are “inclusive,” meaning they invite those without disabilities to join them for practice, according to Adam Ayers, Inclusion/Program Specialist in the Division of Therapeutic Recreation at the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

According to Ayers, NKU got involved when one of the CRC’s connections was playing at a local bar and saw Paul Schwarber, Coordinating Assistant to the Coaching Staff for the NKU men’s basketball team. The connection then invited Schwarber and NKU to come out and support.

“NKU has been involved since earlier this year,” Ayers said. “They reached out and have been coming ever since.”

The men’s basketball team is not the only team to play wheelchair basketball with the Royals.

“They’ve brought the women’s soccer team and women’s basketball team and made it an NKU event with the Royals, which is awesome,” Ayers said.

Sophomore forward Deontae Cole said it’s “fun” to support wheelchair basketball.

“It’s a great experience for me just to come out and play with these guys,” Cole said. “You get to experience something new other than always being on the court without wheelchairs, so it’s fun.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, over 54 million Americans live with some sort of disability. Additionally, over 3.3 million people use a wheelchair in the United States.

Ayers said that not only is the community connection with NKU important, but so is “educating the young athletes about people with disabilities.”

“I think it’s a testament to NKU’s coaching staff and also the character that they show and the integrity they have around the game of basketball.”