A FISH OUT OF WATER TAKES TO THE COURT

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In a world where specializing in one sport is considered the norm, Alabama wheelchair basketball power forward, Michael Auprince, is an anomaly, not only at the college level, but on the international stage as well.

As a freshman member of the University of Alabama Men’s wheelchair basketball team, he has entered a program with a tradition of excellence. However, the Sidney, Australia native is no stranger to achievement and brings an impressive resume with him.

Auprince, 22, already has a gold and bronze medal in swimming under his belt. He helped lead the Australian 4×100-meter freestyle relay team to a gold medal, and the 4×100 medley relay team to a bronze at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

“There’s nothing like a Paralympics to compete at,” Auprince said. “You just can’t describe it. The aura of it is just insane.”

But this fish decided to take his talents to the court after being contacted by University of Alabama wheelchair basketball coach, Ford Burttram.

“I’ve been playing wheelchair basketball for a while now,” Auprince said. “I got an email from the coach about two years ago saying ‘do you want to come earn a degree and play wheelchair basketball?’ I said this is a great shot to try to make Rio in 2016, so I took it.”

He had taken two years off from basketball to prepare for London, but that hasn’t inhibited his abilities.

Though he was recruited by a successful college program and has a gold medal, Aurprince has remained humble. He attributes his modest attitude to the very sports that have gained him so much success.

“When you lose you need that certain humility to pick yourself back up and go back to training the next day,” Auprince said. “I think that [sports] has taught me that, as well as confidence in myself. I know what I can do and what my teammates can do and it’s about putting it together.”

And put it together they do. The team practices at 6:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But Auprince admits that the early morning starts aren’t easy.

“[It takes] self-drive, a lot of the stuff we do the general public only sees it in games,” Auprince said. “Most of us are in here at least five days a week, twice a day, trying to train and work in our games. It’s the stuff that normal people probably wouldn’t do.”

What began as a social sport has developed into an opportunity to be a student-athlete. Auprince is studying English at UA and plans to teach high school English in his home country of Australia after graduation.

“Studies always come first for me,” Auprince said. “My parents have engrained that in me since day one.”

Auprince, alongside his fellow Paralympians and countrymen will take to the court on Friday, Feb. 26 in Foster Auditorium for a double-header style tournament. The men’s tip-off is at 8 p.m. following the women’s wheelchair basketball game at 6 p.m. For more information or to buy tickets, visit alabamaadapted.com.

– Written by Jessica Russel