Oklahoma Wheelchair Basketball Team Wins Championship
TULSA, Ok - A group of Oklahomans hasn't let their obstacles stop them, In fact, they're national champs.
They've all faced life-changing experiences.
Jeremy Skinner said, “I have a condition called functional neurological symptom disorder, basically my brain doesn't send motor skills correctly to my limbs."
Michael Tompkins said, “Me and my family were hit in a car accident, head on with a sleepy driver and it caused me to have an L1, L2 Spinal injury."
But strapping up to a wheelchair and bouncing a basketball brought these athletes glory on the hardwood. The Oklahoma Rolling Trojans started a couple years ago.
Sterling Thomas said, "We all have different backgrounds, but being in a wheelchair brought us together; we know what we're supposed to do to get the job done."
"The wheelchair gives me a freedom that I have above my disability,” Skinner said.
The Trojans went 18 and 5 in the regular season and in the national tournament as a 7 seed they rolled to the Division 3 national championship; the first national title for a team from Oklahoma. Tournament M-V-P Michael Tompkins, a Puerto Rican national team player who studied Michael Jordan as a kid, brings intensity to the team.
Tompkins said, "Didn't expect to fall in love with it, but I realized at that time wheelchair basketball is kind of a cross between football and basketball; so super-physical which kind of made me fall in love with it."
Maybe his most M-V-P moment was helping Sterling Thomas. The Union grad and Lindenwood Football player fractured his C5 vertebrae in his spinal cord. It left him paralyzed from the waist down. Mike helped him back to playing sports.
"I'm a quadriplegic and usually it's for paraplegics, people with more upper body strength. I was one of those guys who was last up the court and last back down and Mike he really stuck with me and encouraged me." Thomas said.
Next year, they move up to Division 2. Costs of travel and wheelchairs aren't cheap and they'll face teams even sponsored by NBA teams, but nothing can take back the experience of a championship.
Thomas sums it all up when he said, “Winning the national title was one of the greatest feelings I ever felt, it's just a great feeling to come out in a different sport and being able to still win a title."