German pros join Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe Soldiers for wheelchair basketball game
May 30, 2014
KLEBER KASERNE, Germany -- "I'm glad we got to mix it up -- I wouldn't have wanted to play against them."
Most of the other Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe Soldiers seemed to agree with Spc. Israel Cruz after a game of wheelchair basketball that included professional players from a local German league.
Members of the German Bundesliga FCK Rolling Devils, a wheelchair basketball team based in Kaiserslautern, came out to the Kleber Kaserne Fitness Center Friday to join the WTB-E Soldiers in a friendly game. Players from both teams combined to form two separate teams that faced off against each other.
Soldiers are assigned to the WTB-E when they are wounded, injured or ill and are expected to require intensive medical treatment for an extended period. Oftentimes their conditions preclude them from participating in regular physical training activities so they engage in adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
"They can't do what they did before, but they can do this," said WTB-E Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Chance. "The whole idea is to keep them active and for them to have fun as well."
"I love wheelchair basketball," said Cruz, a WTB-E Soldier assigned to Kleber Kaserne. "It's a really good workout and it's actually fun. It takes more finesse, coordination and teamwork than regular basketball."
Rolling Devil's player Serdar Antac agreed. He's been playing wheelchair basketball for 23 years, the past 12 at the professional level in Germany and Turkey.
"It's really a lot of things coming together," Antac said. "It's coordination, power, athleticism. It shows there's no limits as long as you keep trying."
This was the third visit by the Rolling Devils, whose team included players with varying levels of experience. Some members of their youth league joined the game, while a few 1st Bundesliga players -- professionals who tour the country playing other city teams -- participated as well.
Even though their experience level on the court was much higher in general compared to the WTB-E Soldiers, the Rolling Devils made sure everybody got a chance to play by passing the ball to Soldiers as often as possible. While everybody on the court was competitive, it was even evident to the fans in the bleachers that all were there primarily to have fun.
"I enjoy this. It's really a lot more about fun than competition," said Rolling Devils player and branch president Sascha Gergele. "Americans here in Kaiserslautern are integrated into the community and they like to play basketball. This is good to bring the Germans and the Americans together."
After playing three games with their American counterparts, Antac said he could see improvement in their play. The Rolling Devils are always looking for people to play with their team and he hoped some of the WTB-E Soldiers might consider it.
"This is a good chance for these Veterans," Antac said. "This can give them a chance to possibly play for a good club."
For Sgt. 1st Class Neil Jasmin, another Soldier assigned to WTB-E at Kleber Kaserne, it was fun just to play and meet with the community team.
"It was good to bond more with the community," Jasmin said. "Plus it helped show everybody that, even though you're in a wheelchair, you can still excel."