The Lehigh University men’s and women’s basketball teams learned just how hard it is to play wheelchair basketball in their exhibition match-up against the Lehigh Valley Freewheelers on Thursday in Grace Hall.
The final score was not close. The Lehigh Valley Freewheelers, an organization of disabled athletes, dominated the whole game and won by a score of 75-30. However, the players were not concerned with the score because they knew the game represented something bigger than all of them.
This game was the finale for a week of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The act was passed to protect and ensure those with disabilities always have an equal opportunity.
However, for the two teams that played in this game, it showed that having a disability doesn’t mean that sports aren’t attainable.
“It was really cool to see how people cope with being in wheelchairs, and still be able to play basketball,” sophomore guard Austin Price said. “You don’t really know how it feels until you actually sit in a chair. It was really humbling.”
Chris Kile, point guard for the Lehigh Valley Freewheelers, was the best player on the court Thursday night. While making reverse lay-ups and behind the back passes and assisting like Rajon Rondo does in the NBA, he led his team to victory. His performance caught the attention of fans. Kile plays competitive wheelchair basketball in the top division in the U.S.
“I started (with) The Freewheelers when I was about 15,” Kile said. “I always played able-body sports like baseball and wrestling. Then my knees started to kill me too much. I have cerebral palsy. I went to one (wheelchair basketball game) and got hooked.
“We want to show people it’s a full game just like you play on the court,” he added. “It’s just a different way of playing.”
Jessica Manno, the director of student affairs planning and assessment, coordinated the basketball game. She included different competitions for the fans during time-outs and half time. The event staff threw t-shirts and mini basketballs into the stands to give the fans an exciting half-time show. The organization of the game was very much to similar to that of an NBA basketball game.
Manno seemed very happy with the way the event went overall.
“We wanted to end the week with something fun that the students could get into, and that would be an exciting way to bring our community together,” she said, “The Freewheelers talked about how much fun they had, and I think the (Lehigh) teams had a great time as well. It was the first time we’ve done this.”
The event started with handshakes and smiles before the opening tip-off, and ended with both teams having dinner together after the final whistle.