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Basketball: Flying Wheeler Dies

Reprinted from SNS June 2002
Fritz Krauth, one of the original Long Beach Flying Wheels, died in Newport Beach, Calif., earlier this year. Krauth was a naval aviator in the forties and started playing basketball in 1949. The Flying Wheels were media darlings when they barnstormed the nation in a DC-3 prop plane, initially playing paraplegic veteran teams, then National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) squads. The Flying Wheels were credited for putting the sport on the map in its formative years.

Krauth starred for Long Beach and the Garden Grove Bears, was selected to the All-Tourney Team eight times, and held numerous tournament records. He was a member of the goodwill group that toured South Africa in 1962 and the team that won the basketball gold in the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics. He was a phenomenal shooter, and many sports scribes of that era likened him to Bob Cousy, the Boston Celtic great. Krauth served the NWBA one term as vice president and one as president and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978. After his basketball days he was involved in wheelchair tennis as a player and officer.

Graduating from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Krauth was a certified public accountant and piloted his own twin-engine plane. But his true passion was deep-sea sportfishing off the coast of Mexico, where he caught a record number of trophy marlin and swordfish. He was a man who lived and enjoyed life to the fullest.

Sportsmanship Award Named

The NWBA's Central Intercollegiate Conference (CIC) has named its sportsmanship award after Dr. Frank M. Brasile in recognition of his outstanding contribution, dedication, and service to the CIC, wheelchair basketball, and the field of therapeutic recreation.

The CIC Sportsmanship Award was created in 1977 to recognize players who best demonstrate good sportsmanship on and off the basketball court.

Brasile served as CIC's commissioner for 15 years, from 1978 to 1993. As one of the conference's founders, he was responsible for providing students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics. He has coached wheelchair basketball at the intercollegiate, community, and international levels since 1972.

Historical Stuff

Marvin J. Lapicola reached a personal historic milestone with some remarkable accomplishments in the NWBA. He has marked his fiftieth anniversary (1952-2002), which includes 27 years as a player with the Illinois Gizz Kids and Chicago Sidewinders (1952-1979). He served the NWBA on the executive committee 6 years as a vice president and 24 years as president.

She's a Good Guy

Vena McCormack has served the NWBA for more than 45 years. She has filled many roles for her team, as well as others within her conference and region. She has raised money, kept scores, picked up players for practice, and organized tournaments. In the early days when teams and players built their own game chairs, she sewed the upholstery. And over the years she has taught numerous people how to keep score and run the score table.

She is the heart and soul of the Music City Lightning and recently received the Bill Duncan Good Guy Award.

2002 NWBA Hall of Fame

Six candidates have been inducted into the NWBA Hall of Fame:

— For her 18 years of participation in women?s basketball, Karen Casper-Robeson joins Sharon Rahn-Hedrick ('94) and Susan Hagel ('99) as the third woman to be honored in the Hall. Casper-Robeson was selected to 13 National Women's Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWWBT) All-Tournament Teams. She participated on six USA teams and served seven years as Women?s Division chairperson.

— In 38 years as an NWBA member, Joe Luceri has worn many hats. On the storied Brooklyn Whirlways in the Eastern Conference, he was a player, team rep, treasurer, president, and conference commissioner. On the national level, he was elected second vice president in 1995 and served the NWBA for six years. In his last year he was also acting treasurer. Luceri served on the USA Basketball Board of Directors for four years.

— According to legend in the modern annals of the NWBA, three "big" men have had a major impact on the game. Darryl "Tree" Waller, who started his illustrious career with the fabled Detroit (later Westland) Sparks, was one of those players. He was on a number of teams including the Dallas "Four-straight Champion" Mavericks. On the way to the Hall of Fame, "Tree," as he is known worldwide, in 19 years appeared in 17 final-four tournaments, produced 7 national championships, was selected to 11 All-Tourney Teams, and earned two MVP awards. The big guy competed in three Paralympics and on four Gold Cup world-championship teams.

Three NWBAers—two of whom were pioneers of the sport—were inducted posthumously:

— Doug Keaton was a charter member of the first hometown team formed in summer 1947, the Kansas City Wheelchair Bulldozers, later known as the Rolling Pioneers. Keaton was not only one of the more talented NWBA players but also served as the group's treasurer in the early fifties.

— Greg Seymourian was one of the first people in the United States to play wheelchair basketball. He launched his first shot and his 30-year career in 1945 at the Cushing Hospital in Framingham, Mass. He was a founding member of the Cushing Clippers, an all-paraplegic veterans' team from the VA hospital.

— C. W. "Bill" Duncan became an NWBA member in 1976 when he joined the Golden State 76ers. Duncan was a devoted "doer" of the sport, and no job was too small or big for this player, organizer, fund-raiser, committee chair, promoter, and cheerleader. He never cared who got the credit as long as the job was done right. Without the Bill Duncans, no NWBA would exist. In his honor, the NWBA annually presents the Bill Duncan Good Guy Award.


To read more about this, order June 2002 SPORTS 'N SPOKES, Click Here.
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Basketball: Flying Wheeler Dies


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