Sunday April 17, 2011

Feature Story                                                                     


Chilliwack Cheetahs wheelchair basketball scrimmage for the final night this season at Cheam Leisure Centre.


A Wheelie Great Game

Chilliwack Cheetahs a big hit on the courts

Craig Hill/Voice photos


he kid streaks down the court, bobbing and weaving his magic with the ball. Another player comes up from behind and makes a blindside screen. Suddenly, the kid stops, spins and darts to the inside, driving to the hoop and into the macramé for 2 points — from a wheelchair.


It's Tuesday at Cheam Leisure Centre and 10 Chilliwack Cheetah basketball players who are part of the Steve Nash Youth Basketball (SNYBB) program, are wheeling around the gym on sport wheelchairs during the final night of the season.

Head Coach Brad Hagkull runs up and down the sidelines, occasionally blowing the whistle to stop play. Parents straddle the walls cheering the kids on. The players clearly demonstrating more ability than disability.

On practice night, half the gym is dedicated for the "stand-up" basketball program on one side and Hagkull is on the other side with his Chilliwack Cheetahs.

"Of the 50-60 kids that they get out on a Tuesday, they send 8 kids (4 at a time on a rotation basis) over to our side where they get a chance to use our sport wheelchairs and scrimmage with us," explains Hagkull.

He says the response from the community has been nothing short of great from the get-go.

"It's been a fantastic thing for everyone and we've heard a lot of supportive comments from athletes and parents."

The SNYBB program is administered by Director Codie Hindel who extended an invitation to Hagkull last January for his team to join them in a pilot program. A first in Canada. The connection to Steve Nash is in name-only.

Hagkull's son suffers from spinal bifida and he saw it as a way to get out and enjoy sports with his son.

Next season, the Cheetahs will be travelling around to other points in the Lower Mainland to test their abilities against other teams.

The night comes to a close and the players gather around a kneeling Hagkull. One, two, three and "Cheetahs" is the resounding cheer.

See more photos below.

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