Jr. wheelchair basketball tournament returns in GR

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The athletes at Mary Free Bed’s Jr. Pacers wheelchair basketball program hit the hardwood to face foes from neighboring states Saturday.

The Jr. Pacers went up against players from Illinois and Indiana.

Wheelchair basketball is a competitive sport, one that athletes say is even more physical than traditional basketball.

“I feel like there’s a lot more aggression, which is a lot of fun … it’s a lot of banging around,” said Coleton Butterworth, an 18-year-old who has been hooping with the Jr. Pacers since he was 7 years old.

“I came here and there’s a lot of people in the world that have disabilities like me and I realize that now,” Butterworth said. “So being able to play with them is kind of a lot more fun because each team becomes family.”

Wheelchair hoops has it all: Nifty hook shots and clutch shots in crunch time, just like you’d see in traditional hoops.

The Jr. Pacers is taking part in a tournament this weekend called Keep Up the Pace.

“We’re sponsored by the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. The Youth Advisory Council actually donates all of the money to put on this tournament,” explained Meg Bouman, wheelchair and adaptive sports coordinator for Mary Free Bed.

The tournament is a welcome return to the hardwood for the Jr. Pacers, as they didn’t get a chance to play last year. They would have participated in a tournament in Kansas but COVID-19 shut down their season.

“It was really tough, it kind of hurt because we were working really hard and I thought we were going to do really well at nationals,” said Jr. Pacers player Lianna Newbeck.

The tournament will end Sunday.

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