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Band of Uninformed Brothers

Reprinted from SNS July 2018

A group of military veterans helped form a last-minute team at the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament

After three years of coaching two wheelchair basketball teams, Jacques Theus came to an important realization during the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s (NWBA) National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBT) in mid-April.

Maybe he doesn’t know it all. 

A two-hour Operation Rebound wheelchair basketball clinic during the 70th NWBT at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., changed his coaching perspective and gave him a new one to follow.

“’Cause a lot of us, sometimes we’ve been playing for a lot of years, and we tell you we know it all and want to kind of, like, tell people what to do, try to be the coach. Today, I was a student, for once,” says the 39-year-old Marine Corps veteran. “One of my teammates said, ‘All I’ve done is just coaching and coaching and coaching.’ I haven’t played for the last three years. I’ve been coaching. But today, I got to work. I got a feeling I could take something. I learned some new tricks, some new stuff that I kind of forgot about that I can bring back to my team. So, either way, it was a learning process for me.”


Marine Corps veteran Jacques Theus, navy blue shirt, listens to other veterans during the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament’s Operation Rebound clinic April 14 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).

Theus’ two teams — the Adult Division II San Diego Silverbacks and Junior Prep Division San Diego Hammer — didn’t qualify for the 96-team tournament.

Just two days before it, though, the San Diego resident received a phone call from someone wanting to know if he’d join a primarily military veteran exhibition team at the NWBT. The tournament had found itself one Division II team short when the Delaware Destroyers couldn’t make it, and organizers decided to form a last-minute squad so there could be a full 16-team Division II bracket.

NWBA Director Anthony Bartkowski says tournament officials had multiple individuals identify 
and reach out to players to join the exhibition team. The only catch was that if the exhibition team won, their opponent would still advance because they were just an exhibition squad. 

The exhibition team ended up splitting its four games, but the military veterans also found other ways to help out at the tournament. They assisted with the NWBA’s Operation Rebound and helped find other active duty and injured military veterans who were interested in playing wheelchair basketball but who didn’t have a team or played for squad not attending the NWBT.

Operation Rebound is a one-day clinic during the tournament that provides chair fitting, coaching and the opportunity to compete in games during a summer camp led by University of Texas-Arlington men’s wheelchair basketball coach Doug Garner.

“I think it went over well,” Bartkowski says. “I haven’t heard anything negative toward it, and it provided us an opportunity to ensure a team wasn’t just going to be missing out on one or two games just because of a bye, and we got a full competition to happen.”

Theus, who sustained a T4 spinal-cord injury (SCI) in an on-base car accident in 1999 in San Diego, couldn’t say no to joining other veterans and helping out the NWBT. He’s passionate about wheelchair basketball, and the experience helped energize him for next season.

“And I have to come again. It’s so exciting, you know? It’s like you hear about this stuff so many times everywhere, but you never get a picture of it until you’re actually here and get the feel of it, so it’s a big difference. It’s a big step, you know?” Theus says. 
“… So when I get back to my guys, that’s one thing I’m going to be drilling in their heads: ‘Hey, we’ve got to make it here. We’ve got to make it here.’ So there’s a motivation, so that’s why I like it. For me, as a coach, as a new coach, I’ve never been outside of my area. Get to come here and speak with different coaches, different players, you get to see now. I can go back and relay that information to my guys. So it’s a win for me.”

 

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Band of Uninformed Brothers

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