Hoops players wheel around PISE

Weekly wheelchair basketball group looking for players

Jessica and Jon Vliegenthart mocked a game of one-on-one Thursday at PISE. Both play in Sunday night’s wheelchair basketball program from 6 to 8 p.m. at PISE. The group is looking for players of any age and skill level to come out and shoot some hoops.

Their group may be small but Jon and Jessica Vliegenthart know that players will come.

The married couple have a long history with wheelchair basketball. Jon played for B.C. at the provincial level and Jessica is a regular with the women’s national team.

Together they have taken over the basketball division of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports club.

Their first order of business was moving the weekly practice into the gym of the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence at Camosun College’s Interurban campus.

The non-competitive group meets for skills and game action every Sunday night  with national-level available from instruction from Jessica. But first, the club could use a few more recruits.

There is no age limit. Kids and adults are encouraged to try the sport, Jessica said.

“We’ve got plenty of sport chairs. It’s important people remember this sport is for anybody and everyone who tries it likes it.”

For those seeking a more competitive outlet, the group also puts together a traveling team for tournaments. The first tourney of the year is Oct. 15 in Kelowna.

They also want to remind people wheelchair basketball isn’t just for physically-disabled players. Currently, the Sunday group is carrying six players and three of them are able-bodied, including Jon.

“It happens a lot. People come out with their friends in support and then stick with it,” Jessica said.

Jon’s route to wheelchair basketball started just such a way in Quesnel 13 years ago. As a teenager he took it up so his friend would have someone to play against.

“(That friend) became the only physically-disabled player on a team of eight of us,” Jon said.

Jon continued playing and eventually made the provincial team which led him to meeting his wife. Jessica turned to basketball following her 2004 spinal injury that came while fighting forest fires and soon made the national level.

As for PISE, the gym was designed to be wheelchair accessible and offers a more centralized location than the group’s previous home at Stelly’s secondary.

The Victoria Wheelchair Sports basketball program meetings run 6 to 8 p.m every Sunday.

The first three sessions are free. First-timers need to register with Jessica or Jon at 250-590-1537.

More information on wheelchair basketball is available at www.bcwbs.ca

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