The Men’s wheelchair basketball team at the University of Alabama kicked off 2016 in a big way this past weekend at the ACSAA Wheelchair Basketball Bash in Wichita, Kansas. The team finished the tournament 4-0, and are now 10-3 (Conf. 9-2) on the season. This is the first time in the program’s history that they have gone 4-0 in a tournament.On Friday, the team first defeated Southwest Missouri State 73-37, followed by a win over the University of Illinois, 65-43. Freshman Michael Auprince led all scorers in both games, with 18 points against sMSU, and then 29 (12-14 FG) against the Illini. While Auprince’s performance really stood out, head coach Ford Burttram believes that teamwork was the key to the team’s success.
“We played really good team basketball this weekend,” Burttram said. “We played extremely well on the offensive side of the ball, and our defense has been tremendous all weekend, holding all teams under 40 points. Auprince is a major part of what we accomplish as a team!”
Part of this team mentality can be seen directly applied to the scoreboard.. In game 1, Justin Obermeyer led the Crimson Tide with eight assists and five rebounds, and in game 2, Jordan Bartley finished with seven assists and six rebounds. On Saturday, the Crimson Tide continued to dominate, defeating Edinboro 65-20. Led by Junior DQ Robinson who had 17 points, Alabama’s offense kept churning, producing their biggest spread of the season. Burttram said that the team’s fire in 2016 hasn’t been anything different from the season as a whole.
“We’re just focused on making a decision and sticking to it,” Burttram said. “We are creating our offensive space, and finishing each and every possession.”
In their last game of the tournament, Alabama finished just as strong as in the first, defeating Missouri 52-31. 21 of those points came from Michael Auprince, who finished the tournament with 81 total points. Robinson also came up big again, scoring 13 Not to be overshadowed, the defense kept the Tigers at bay, benefiting from 14 steals.
For the entire tournament, the Crimson Tide outscored their four opponents by a combined 255-125. They will continue to build on their hot start to 2016 in two weeks. Alabama will next travel to Auburn for a tournament January 29-30. They will face Illinois again, followed by rematches with Wisconsin-Whitewater, Texas-Arlington, and Missouri. The Crimson Tide are seeking redemption after falling to Texas-Arlington 55-68 and Wisconsin-Whitewater 45-61 earlier this season. These rematches only add fuel to the fire, according to Senior James Cook.
“It’ll be a different experience because we will get to play a good amount of teams,” Cook said. “In the past, we only played Auburn. I am really looking forward to getting a chance to play UTA and Whitewater and getting another shot at them after dropping games to them earlier in the season.”
Benjamin Clark – Alabama Wheelchair Basketball Beat Writer