Edinboro represented well at national wheelchair basketball team tryout camp

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 at 6:50 PM

Over winter break, three current and two former Edinboro wheelchair basketball players competed against 22 other players for a spot on the 2018 U.S. Men’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Current Edinboro players Chayse Wolf, Will Speed and Kevin Atherley attended along with former players Trevon Jenifer and Tommie Gray. Jenifer was the only one invited to join the national team. 

Jenifer is a two-time medalist at the Paralympic level. He helped Team USA earn a bronze medal in the 2012 London Games and a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. 

Wolf was a part of the 2017 U-23 team that went to the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships last summer, and this was Atherley’s second time being invited to tryouts. This was Speed’s first time being invited to tryouts. 

The players each filled out an application and sent in a video of their highlights to be considered for the tryouts. 

Speed said that trying out for a national team had always been a dream for him, and that he hopes he can one day play wheelchair basketball professionally after he leaves Edinboro.

Atherly said his second trip to the tryouts validated the hard work he has put into the sport. Having experienced a tryout before helped keep his nerves in check, as well.

“It was an honor, a great experience,” he said. “I felt like my ability and everything I’ve learned since attending Edinboro University is paying off and finally being recognized.”

The tryouts, which lasted four days, consisted mostly of various practices and drills which the participants were evaluated on.

Wolf said he struggled at times with the level of competition at the tryout, but that he was excited to be given the rare opportunity.

“It was pretty surreal. I’ve only been playing two years, so to have that opportunity to go against the best in the world was pretty awesome,” he said. He further explained that playing alongside former Paralympians was exciting, but distracted him from performing his best.

“Playing some of those guys was — I had heard the names before, but never met them — it was pretty nerve-wracking. I felt kind of inferior at times,” he said. “Towards the end of it, I felt a lot better about my game; I started to pick it up by that time. Unfortunately, it was a little too late.”

Speed also said he struggled at times to stay focused and perform his best.

“The first day I was kind of hesitant; I was really nervous the first day, so I didn’t have a really good tryout,” he explained. “The next couple days I felt really good. I thought I did a good job and played some of my best basketball, but it wasn’t enough.”

All three men said that having fellow teammates with them made the adjustment easier, as it helped them get through the tough tryouts.

“It made it 10 times easier,” Atherly said. “We all know each other. We’re all comfortable playing around each other. We know when to pick each other up. Having your teammate there with you, it helps a lot.” 

Wolf also said that having his teammates there was helpful, but that being able to talk to Jenifer about the practices and get feedback from him was also critical. He said that Jenifer has been a major component to Wolf’s development as a player.

“[Trevon] has been pretty much my mentor since I got here and throughout the process of me playing wheelchair basketball,” Wolf said.

Atherly and Speed said that Jenifer, who helped coach Edinboro’s wheelchair basketball team last season, was able to share his experience in the national program with them to help make sure the national coaches saw their strengths displayed. Jenifer was the only current or former Edinboro player to be selected for the 2018 team. 

Atherly said that even though he was honored to be at the tryout, it highlighted how much work he has left to do before he can compete beyond collegiate competition.

“I realized that I have not learned it all and there’s still a lot more for me to learn,” Atherly explained. “It made me realize I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn.” 

Wolf and Speed also said that while they enjoyed their experiences, the tryout camp primarily showed them what areas they should work on in order to hopefully get selected at future tryout camps.

“I gained a better knowledge [and] understanding of how much faster the game is, how much communication you need to have,” Speed said. “While I went in there thinking I was pretty decent, I came out knowing I need a lot of work, so it pushes me to be in the gym more to get better.”

All three expressed gratitude for being able to represent Edinboro, while believing that having the school represented at the tryout by five players reflects well on the program.

“I think it’s awesome,” Wolf said. “We’re having some issues with recruiting and stuff right now, especially with the weather here. It definitely helps our program a lot and it helps having Coach Glatch.”  

“It’s good. It’s a good look for the school and the program,” Speed said. “As a smaller program within the division, it is awesome to be able to bring such a large amount of players from our school to the tryouts. With the struggling economy of the school and the athletic department, I feel that what we are doing helps to show that we are a program that can sustain and bring notoriety to Edinboro University.” 

Jenifer now faces the last cuts made this May, when 12 finalists of the 17 will be selected to compete in the 2018 International Wheelchair Basketball Federation World Championships in Hamburg, Germany in August. 

Erica Burkholder can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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