It's more than a game for wheelchair basketball athletes

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on January 9, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 9 at 12:39 AM

DUNCANVILLE —  At this tournament, there's no "squeak" from fast-moving high-tops. But don't tell these basketball players they're not athletes.

They're in the middle of their fifth game in two days.

"It can get pretty physical," confessed wheelchair basketball player Vanessa Erskine. "Things can get pretty heated, but it can be a lot of fun. It's a lot of work. Your arms are definitely really tired afterwards."

The Duncanville Fieldhouse hosted eight wheelchair basketball teams from Texas, Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma this weekend — with a trip to a national tournament on the line.

For Vanessa, taking the floor was a victory in itself. Just eight months ago, she was paralyzed in a rodeo accident. This is one of the few outlets she has to challenge her competitive spirit.

"Just being to able to come out here with kids your age who are going through the same stuff you are," she said. "And it's a physical activity. You are working hard while you are having fun."

Vanessa's mom, Diane Erskine, sees more to the game than competition. There's the camaraderie and compassion that comes with seeing other athletes her daughter's age working toward the same goal.

"She really enjoys being able to be part of a team, because when you're in a wheelchair, there's not a lot of team sports out there to do," Erskine said.

Vanessa's team, the Kansas City Junior Pioneers, didn't earn the regional title. But she and her teammates left with the respect of the fans... and some new friends, too.

"Everyone here is always upbeat, so it really rubs off on you," Vanessa said.

She also learned she's not alone, and with a team she can meet whatever challenge she faces tomorrow.

The Dallas Junior Mavericks hosted the event this weekend. Sponsors help each team make the trip to different tournaments so the athletes can meet more young people across the country.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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