Paralympic basketball team ready to compete
August 30, 2012
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- U.S. Army Paralympian Sgt. 1st Class Joshua J. Olson
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LONDON (AFPS, Aug. 29, 2012) -- The U.S. Paralympic basketball team had a final tune-up Wednesday, topping Great Britain's team in a scrimmage in advance of ceremonies commemorating the start of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
A U.S. delegation led by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had arrived in London for the opening ceremonies and to visit with Paralympic athletes.
U.S. Paralympic basketball team co-captain Paul Schulte said he believes his 2012 squad is well-prepared for the games.
"This is an awesome group of ballplayers," he said. "It gets pretty frustrating in practice, sometimes, because everyone plays good defense. Everybody's a good scorer. It's just like your able-bodied 'Dream Team.'"
Schulte, who plays point guard, said he was excited, anxious and nervous before the scrimmage at the University of East London as he prepares to enter his third Paralympics.
"[Great Britain] is a good team," he said. "They're going to be playing at home, so we wanted to come out and get a good lead. So [it] was feeling great to see us push it up to 20 points, but we'll expect them to bounce right back and be ready to play in front of their crowd."
Schulte said he was inspired by his fellow Paralympians' commitment and how much they push themselves.
"You see how hard these athletes work, and to see how well they push their bodies to that limit and past is inspiring," he said. "[They're] truly worthy of wearing 'USA' on their chest."
One of Schulte's teammates was just as confident in the U.S. basketball team's abilities.
"These 'friendlies' are more just kind of tune-up games, where you're finishing any last-minute preparations before you go into tomorrow, where the games start mattering," said Joseph Chambers, a forward. "For the last year, you've been doing nothing but playing your own guys. So it's nice to go against somebody else before you go in there tomorrow. [And] any time you're scoring a bunch of points, that's always fun. You get the bragging rights."
The U.S. team soundly defeated the Great Britain squad, but a scoreboard malfunction resulted in the final score not being displayed. Nevertheless, Chambers declared the team ready for the start of competition and reflected on its performance during the scrimmage.
"It's important to peak at the right point in the tournament, and I think we're right on point with where we need to be," he said. "We came out here and put on a good performance today."
Here for his second Paralympics, Chambers said he has been on the team since 2005, and also has a military tie. His mother served in the Army's military police in the early 1980s, he said, and was stationed in Germany when he was born.
The best thing about being a Paralympian, Chambers said, is representing his country on the world stage.
"When you're doing this, you're not just representing yourself or the 12 guys there on the team with you," he said. "There are 10,000 players back home that would give anything to be where you're at. So you're not just representing you, you're representing your home, and that's the biggest thing that matters. You're representing the people you want to make proud."
Chambers said the thrill of competing at the highest level is exciting and provides an adrenaline rush.
"I can't wait to start playing tomorrow," he said. "This is what we've been waiting for, for four years since 2008. So, come tomorrow we can get it on!"