This article was originally written by Alex Nicoll and appeared in The Arkansas Traveler on October 14, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
The season doesn’t officially start until Nov. 13 for the Razorback basketball team, but players faced some tough competition Oct. 7 from the NWA Wild Wheels wheelchair basketball team.
For the past two years, the Wild Wheels have challenged the Razorbacks to a game during Disability Awareness Month. The Wild Wheels also play an exhibition game with the University Recreation wheelchair basketball team.
The exhibition game is just one of many events the private nonprofitSources for Community Independent Living Services schedules and promotes during October while partnering with university organizations, such as UREC and the College of Education and Health Professions.
“We’ve asked the basketball team to come up each year, and they do,” said Jim Mather, executive director for Sources. “They have a lot of fun with it.”
Despite being a pickup game, players from both teams became competitive and started talking smack. Freshman guard Jimmy Whitt said he was playing to “get his win for the day.”
Though facing Division I opponents, the Wild Wheels never backed down from the challenge.
“For them to be that cocky, and for us to come out and score on them, it’s great,” Wild Wheels founder Craig Blanchard said. “The camaraderie just blew me away.”
For Razorback players, the pickup game is more than just a fun yearly rivalry.
“We just take it upon ourselves to do positive things in the community,” sophomore forward Trey Thompson said. “We just take this time to give back.”
The Razorbacks and the Wild Wheels played two games. The first game was a mix of the two teams, but in the second game, the Razorbacks competed against the Wild Wheels.
Both teams heckled each other, as well as their own teammates. Neither team officially kept score, but Blanchard knew exactly the outcome of the game.
“Who do you think won?” Blanchard said. “We run this house.”
After the game, the players stayed behind to take pictures with each member of the Wild Wheels.
“We want to show it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom,” Blanched said. “We want to set an example.”
The next competition for the Wild Wheels will be Nov. 14 at the Rogers Activity Center. The Razorbacks’ first game is Nov. 13 against Southern University at Bud Walton Arena.