Ready For The East Coast?

Players Have Mixed Feelings On NWBA Tournaments Headed To Richmond

Players Have Mixed Feelings On NWBA Tournaments Headed To Richmond

Courage Kenny Rolling Timberwolves wheelchair basketball player Evan Thorn is already looking forward to next year’s National Wheelchair Basketball Association Wheelchair Basketball (NWBA) Adult Division Wheelchair Basketball Championships.

If not for the camaraderie, then for the fish.

“It’s good to have it on the East Coast. We’ve never had it out on the East Coast, so it’d be good to have a new venue,” said the 37-year-old Thorn, who captured Saturday’s Adult Division I 3-point shooting contest at Wichita Hoops in Bel Aire, Kan. “It’ll be nice to travel to the ocean and get some seafood.”

Courage Kenny Rolling Timberwolves’ Evan Thorn during the D-1 3-point contest at the 2023 NWBA Adult Division Wheelchair Basketball National Championships in Wichita, Kan. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).


After the last three years at Wichita Hoops, a 113,00-square-foot facility with 12 full-size basketball courts in Bel Aire, Kan., the NWBA Adult and Junior Division Wheelchair Basketball Championship Tournaments will be heading out east — to Richmond, Va. — next year. The capital city of Virginia, Richmond has just over an estimated 226,000 population, according to the 2021 U.S. census, and is actually smaller than Wichita, which has over 394,500 people.

Additionally, for the second straight year, the NWBA Junior and Adult Division Wheelchair Basketball Championship Tournaments will be split up, with the junior tournament being held April 5-7, 2024, and the adult tournament the next one, April 12-14, 2024. Both will be at the Henrico Sports & Events Center, a 185,000 square-foot building with 12 full-size basketball courts and 115,00 square feet of court space.

Players have mixed feelings on it.

Thorn likes the idea.

An Elk River, Minn., resident, Thorn had his left leg amputated when he was 15 years old after a trampoline accident at his Minnesota home. He’s played wheelchair basketball ever since.

On Saturday, he was one of three 3-point contest tournament title winners. He took took the Adult Division I 3-point title by one point, while the Detroit Wheelchair Pistons’ Jesus Villa (Adult Division II who won last year’s overall 3-point contest) and Team St. Luke’s’ Mac Graff (Adult Division III) also won titles.

Thorn, whose team will be playing for 13th-place in the Division I tournament, likes the tournament overall and the sport. Competition was what got him interested.

“Just the competitive drive,” he said. “Watching other people that are good, you know. I root for the good play, you know, watching someone make a good play.”

Meanwhile, Deshjon Mitchell has a unique perspective and can see the tournament from both sides.

A 42-year-old San Diego resident, Mitchell has been playing wheelchair basketball since 2004 — seven years after sustaining a T6 spinal-cord injury after being a passenger in a car crash in San Diego.

The NMSCD Wolf Pack Adult Division I player, whose team is 1-2 so far and will be playing in Sunday’s seventh-place game, has competed in the Adult Division Tournament for five years. He’s also previously coached the San Diego Hammer in the Junior Varsity Division and at the NWBA Junior Division Tournament. Although he likes how the Adult Division tournament moves faster on its own, Mitchell admits he misses the junior players and teams.

“I like to have the juniors. I think they can look up to the adults and see, you know, like the upper divisions, kind of give him that aspiration and see how the game is played at that level,” Mitchell said. “But it makes more sense. I can see why spacing-wise. It probably works out to split it up.”

As for Elijah Bondeson, he’s split on next year’s tournament. The 25-year-old Sportable Rim Riders Adult Division II player won’t have to travel far, since he lives in Richmond, Va., already.

Bondeson, who was born with spina bifida, likes the tournament and seeing all the teams and making friends.

“I don’t have a preference,” said Bondeson, whose team is 1-2, won its first game Saturday over the Southeastern Rolling Rebels and will play in the 13th-place game Sunday. “It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Finals Set

Adult Division II’s ATX (Austin) provided the major upset of the semifinals.

No. 5 seed ATX (Austin) will meet the No. 2 seed LA Hotwheels in Sunday’s Adult Division II championship. No. 5 seed ATX (Austin) knocked off No. 1 seed Detroit Wheelchair Pistons, 60-47, in Saturday’s first Adult Division II semifinal, while the No. 2 seed LA Hotwheels outlasted the No. 3 seed LA Clippers, 51-46.

In Adult Division I, the top two seeds stayed pat — the No. 1 seed Golden State Road Warriors and No. 2 seed New York Rollin’ Knicks will meet in Sunday’s championship.

No. 1 seed Golden State used a big third quarter to pull away from the No. 4 seed Memorial Rehabilitation Sharks for a 62-40 victory, while No. 2 seed New York pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 66-56 win over the No. 3 seed MedStar NRH Punishers.

Meanwhile, in Adult Division III, the No. 4 seed Orlando Magic Wheels will play the No. 2 seed Pittsburgh Steelwheelers.

Three Pittsburgh players each went 2-of-2 from the foul line inside the final 50 seconds to lift the No. 2 seed Steelwheelers to a 42-37 victory over the No. 3 seed Shepherd Stealers.

The No. 4 seed Magic Wheels hung on for a 51-49 victory over the No. 8 seed LWSRA Hawks in the other semifinal. The Magic Wheels led by six with less than 2 minutes left and LWSRA had three chances to tie over the final minute but couldn’t convert.

The Punishers (facing forward) put up a good fight against New York in semifinal play during the 2023 NWBA Adult Division Wheelchair National Championships. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).

Division I


No. 1 Golden State Road Warriors 62, No. 4 Memorial Rehabilitation Sharks 40

No. 2 New York Rollin’ Knicks 66, No. 3 MedStar NRH Punishers 56

Consolation Bracket

No. 12 Seattle Sonics 69, No. 9 Courage Kenny Rolling Timberwolves 45

No. 10 Mary Free Bed Pacers 41, No. 11 WWAR Generals 39

No. 13 Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets 60, No. 14 FEBASIRU Puerto Rico 48

No. 11 WWAR Generals 49, No. 9 Courage Kenny Rolling Timberwolves 34

No. 5 Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks 57, No. 8 NMSCD Wolf Pack 52

No. 6 Rancho Halos 64, No. 7 Utah Wheelin’ Jazz 48

13th-Place Game

No. 14 FEBASIRU Puerto Rico 64, No. 9 Courage Kenny Rolling Timberwolves 46

Division II


No. 5 ATX (Austin) 60, No. 1 Detroit Wheelchair Pistons 47

No. 2 LA Hotwheels 51, No. 3 LA Clippers 46

Consolation Bracket

No. 8 OKC Wheels of Thunder 62, NO. 12 Shepherd Stealers 56

No. 6 Kansas City Kings 53, No. 10 Magee Spokesmen 42

No. 16 ParaSport Spokane 58, No. 13 Memorial Rehabilitation Sharks 38

No. 14 Sportable Rim Riders 63, No. 15 Southeastern Rolling Rebels 45

No. 4 Chicago Hornets 48, No. 9 Ability360 Phoenix Wheelchair Suns 40

No. 7 Denver Rolling Nuggets 53, No. 11 Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets 49

15th-Place Game

No. 13 Memorial Rehabilitation Sharks 52, No. 15 Southeastern Rolling Rebels 50

13th-Place Game

No. 16 ParaSport Spokane 55, No. 14 Sportable Rim Riders 38

Division III


No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelwheelers 42, No. 3 Shepherd Stealers 37

No. 4 Orlando Magic Wheels 51, No. 8 LWSRA Hawks 49

Consolation Bracket

No. 9 Coastal Chairmen 50, No. 5 Houston Rollin’ Rockets 47

No. 14 Tulsa Twisters 50, No. 7 Arkansas Rollin’ Razorbacks 44

No. 13 Team St. Luke’s 55, No. 16 Corpus Christi Rimz 26

No. 6 Harrisonburg Cardinals 57, No. 15 Austin Rec’ers 47

No. 1 Tucson Lobos 55, No. 12 Capital City Cardinals 32

No, 10 Tampa Bay Strong Dogs 46, No. 11 Lakeshore Storm 38

15th-Place Game

No. 15 Austin Rec’ers 49, No. 16 Corpus Christi Rimz 42


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