Nothing but net!
Seven of the country’s top ranked teams from the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) made their Brooklyn debut as the Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament was held at Poly Prep Country Day School, 9216 Seventh Avenue, on Saturday October 8 and Sunday, October 9.
The weekend tourney was organized by NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization.
“If we didn’t (produce) this event, I don’t think there would be a tournament of this nature in the area,” said Jeff Mohl, vice president for sports marketing at NYC & Company. “ It’s the only one in New York City. We’ve been doing it since 2003 and it includes both local teams and teams from all over the country.”
“The City of New York is committed to providing greater opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in competitive sports programs,” added the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Commissioner Victor Calise in a statement.
The teams consists mostly of adults. “There are some college players, but most are post-college athletes,” said Mohl. “They are the best teams in country. There are a lot of world-class athletes, particularly from the Paralympic Games.”
The first tournament held in the borough was deemed a success for both players and fans alike. “It was a great opportunity to bring it to Brooklyn and expose it to new people,” Mohl said. “We’re trying to bring awareness for people all over to see this amazing sport who may not have the opportunity to see otherwise. The biggest struggle is awareness. Once people saw it on the news, they came out and were amazed by the athletes’ speed and skill.”
The teams competing included the Brooklyn Nets, Bulova Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Lakeshore Lightning, New England Blazers, New York Rollin’ Knicks and Rochester Wheels.
The Fort Lauderdale Sharks were slated to participate, but couldn’t make the trip due to Hurricane Matthew.
The Brooklyn Nets captured the Division III championship game after they defeated the Rochester Wheels 62-33. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the Division II championship, beating the New England Blazers 52-29.
However, the experience left everyone a winner. “They had a great weekend playing in a different part of New York, enjoyed parts of Brooklyn like Williamsburg and had the great opportunity to play amazing athletes and show their athleticism,” Mohl said, adding that Poly Prep was a great venue. “It was fantastic. They have brand new state-of-the-art courts comparable to a college facility. They loved it especially that they were playing the same court (NBA all-star) Joakim Noah played in high school.”
The Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, formerly known as the NYC Mayor’s Cup Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, was renamed in 2012 to honor late Commissioner Matthew Sapolin, who led the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for nearly a decade.