RALEIGH - Look out March Madness. August Madness took over PNC Arena Wednesday.
It is is a summertime basketball tournament featuring professional and collegiate players, paralympians, and average citizens, all playing basketball from wheelchairs. Rolling the hardwoods can be a humbling experience, even for the most experienced athletes.
“I'm not NBA out here,” said Tar Heel legend and NBA star Jerry Stackhouse, strapped to sports wheelchair. “Using your arms, and in this case, making sure you don't get your fingers caught up in the spokes. There's a lot of things to worry about."
Luckily, Stackhouse and other struggling able-bodied players have good coaches, like 14-year-old Mike Lewis and William Christy, 18, who both play wheelchair basketball.
“I could do laps around these guys and they'd still be trying to get down the court and stuff and they'd never know what happened,” said Lewis.
“They remind me of me when I first started,” Christy said.
The tournament teaches able-bodied athletes and everyday people what it's like to live and play in a wheelchair.
“It takes as much athleticism to play in a wheelchair as it does standing up,” said co-chair August Madness Tournament and Founder/Executive Director of Bridge II Sports Ashley Thomas.
Bridge II Sports is a nonprofit organization providing opportunities for people with physical challenges to play sports.
“I want people to know I'm a person and I do normal things just like normal people do,” said Christy.
The main thing the tournament teaches people is it is only disabling to be in a wheelchair if you do not know how to use it.
“Often times people think, oh you're in a wheelchair, that's terrible. It's not terrible. It's [only] terrible if you don't do anything,” said Thomas.
“It's fun to be in a wheelchair,” Christy said with a smile.
“[The able-bodied athletes] are not used to being in a wheelchair and now they know what it's like to kind of be in one and so they just get the real feel of how we do every day,” said Lewis.
The August Madness tournament helped raise money for children with disabilities to play wheelchair basketball.