Tara Martin | Web Editor-in-Chief
Sophomore Daniel Clements has already mapped out his top choices for where he wants to play collegiate basketball. At the top of the list sits Auburn University in Alabama, one of only a dozen or so schools in the country that offers a wheelchair basketball program. For Clements, who was born paralyzed from his shins down, this a must-have.
Basketball first piqued Clements interest 10 years ago as he recovered from surgery on his legs.
“I was having one of my surgeries at Riley Hospital and I liked to goof around a lot in my [wheelchair],” Clements said. “This dad of another kid who played wheelchair basketball saw me and told my parents about the sport.”
Since he was 6 years old, Clements has participated in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, a basketball league created for players with physical disabilities. In a matter of two weeks, Clements will take the court for his season opener game in Cincinnati, OH.
“We practice at Park Tudor. One of the girls on my basketball team, her dad is a teacher there… so we can go there and practice on Sundays,” Clements said.
Clements said that participating in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association has helped provide him with a sense of normalcy that, in the past, he had been lacking.
“I feel like basketball has made me who I am,” Clements said. “I have a lot of stress from school and a lot of anger and basketball helps me balance that out.”
Through each and every one of Clement’s basketball seasons, the highlight remains the friends he has made while playing the sport.
“I don’t really talk to anybody with disabilities outside of basketball,” Clements said. “Most of my best friends are from basketball.”
Clements practices his shot almost every day after school, his summers are spent at basketball camps across the country, but above the skill, Clements said that he appreciates the personal impact playing basketball has had on him.
“I feel like it helps me build my character more and socializing with other kids like me, it’s just a good opportunity for anybody with a disability to play if they like basketball,” Clements said.