CORE hosts wheelchair basketball tournament
Ruben Mauricio was shot at a party in Los Angeles.
Savoy Brown lost both feet as a result of trying to jump on a train when he was nine.
Rae Tarin is able-bodied. So are Lyndsey Henderson and her son Mace.
All of the above took part in the First Annual 3×3 Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, held Saturday at the CORE Center in Hobbs. Organizers and participants hope it was the first of many annual wheelchair basketball tournaments.
Saturday brought a strong turnout for a highly positive event, taking the sport of basketball and adding in a twist for the disabled and able-bodied alike to challenge each other and themselves.
“It has been amazing today,” CORE Center Sports Coordinator Paula Drake said on Saturday afternoon. “We had nine teams coming and registering, and we’ve had a lot of spectators coming in and out throughout the day, dropping by, watching a little bit, eating at the food trucks.
“I’m very excited for it,” Drake added, “it’s a dream coming true.”
The CORE Center worked with the United Way, TURFS (Teams United Repping Field Sports) and the JF Maddox Foundation, to get the tournament going.
“Partnerships for sure,” Drake said. “Without good partners we would not be able to make this happen; a dream without supporters cannot move forward. We had the idea of the wheelchair games, but without the support from the United Way, and the Maddox Foundation for providing the wheelchairs, and the support of TURFS, it would not be possible.”
Lyndsey Henderson, CORE’s Facility Director, took part in the games, maneuvering herself around to play on a team with her son.
“Oh, it’s so much fun,” Henderson said. “It’s a whole different challenge that we weren’t expecting. It’s very fast-paced, very aggressive.”
Mauricio, who now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, made the six-hour trek to Hobbs to participate in the tournament.
“I came down here for my buddy,” Mauricio said, “to support his 3-on-3. I’m having a lot of fun because I normally don’t get to play against able-bodied people, and their reaction to what I can do against them is funny. They don’t expect me to dribble circles around them.”
Brown is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but now lives in San Antonio, Texas. Brown also had a long journey to Hobbs, doing so at the encouragement of his friend Michael Garcia, who is local.
“We’re like brothers,” Brown said. “He contacted me about this a few months ago. I always wanted to come here; this was the perfect time to come visit, check the city (of Hobbs) out. I’m very excited, very excited, because I’ve been playing wheelchair basketball for over 20 years, and it was nice to come out and shed some light on a sport that I’ve been playing for most of my life. A lot of these people have never seen this sport before.”
Brown lost his lower left foot almost immediately after his train accident, and the other not long afterward. As he pushed forward through life as a disabled person, an educator spotted an opportunity. It was an eighth-grade teacher of Brown’s who asked him to stay after class one day, wanting to talk to him.
“I thought I had been naughty,” Brown recalled. “But she told me about a local college putting on summer camps.”
The teacher wanted Brown to check out a wheelchair demonstration. Brown did, and he was soon attempting to play wheelchair basketball, surprised at how challenging it was.
“I was tired,” he said. “I couldn’t even lift my arms.”
He got used to it soon enough, though, and went on to travel for the sport, win championships, play in college for Southwest Minnesota State University, and eventually a local club team.
Brown now attempts to pass on his experience to other disabled people.
“I like to encourage the kids to keep going,” he said. “In the beginning it’s hard; there’s a lot of physicality in the game. I just try to tell the kids, ‘You’ll see the cool tricks and you’ll be able to do them eventually, but you’ve got to put the time in, learn the game. It just takes time to get there.”
Tarin already knew the game before Saturday – at least he thought he did. Tarin, who played for the Hobbs boys varsity basketball team last decade, gave wheelchair basketball a try for the first time on Saturday.
“A whole lot of fun,” Tarin said. “It’s different for sure, it brings out a different level of competitiveness. I’m going to be sore after. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it was going to be cool.”
Aside from the obvious difference – using a wheelchair to maneuver as opposed to one’s feet – Tarin sees general similarities too.
“Honestly, it’s exactly the same game,” he said. “They run pick-and-roll, they run screens, they spin, they move around.”
“We’re just happy it’s here,” Henderson said. “We’re hoping to have one every year, and if it grows, we’re hoping to do it with more sports.”