Top prep wheelchair basketball teams face-off

- It's a typical tournament weekend at the LakePoint sports complex. Teams have come from all around the southeast and they're all dreaming big.  But these athletes are playing their own brand of ball. Wheelchair basketball.

"Even though the rules are almost identical, the actual strategy on the court is completely different," says Jason Joines. Joines is the head coach of the BlazeSports Junior Hawks.

"In wheelchair basketball, there's almost a football component in it. You use your chairs to block the other opponents," adds Joines.

That contact and competition is what drew North Cobb High School senior Joshua Joines to the sport.

"I found BlazeSports and fell in love with it from the first practice. The team was competitive, there was hitting, there were fouls, somebody won and somebody lost," says Joshua Joines.

Joshua and his team are good. They made it up to being ranked third in the nation last year and have their eyes on a national title this season.

Joines has started to get looks from college wheelchair basketball teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Illinois, and Missouri.

"I would say the best part of my game is my basketball IQ. Knowing when to pass the ball, pass to my teammates and shooting. I'd say my offensive game is a little stronger than my defensive game," says Joines.

Like all sports, not all kids will get to play at the college level, but they are all learning life lessons.

"It's teaching them leadership, they're making friends that they normally wouldn't have a chance to make. They're building self confidence and self-esteem. You can't put a value on that," says Cynthia Frisina, executive director of BlazeSports America.

There's also that opportunity to show their competitive fire, something Joshua's teammate Polina Bondarenko does not lack.

"I always have a comeback for everything. When somebody says something mean to me on the court, I'm like 'don't mess with me,'" says Bondarenko.

She's originally from Russia, but picked up the game when she moved to the US. Playing co-ed basketball means Polina gets to play mind games.

"I pretend for the first five minutes that I'm pretty weak so they stop worrying about me. Then I'll take an outside shot and make it and they're like 'oh my goodness that girl is good!'" says Bondarenko.

All of these kids are good and that's what makes the "Big Peach Slam Jam" not just another tournament.


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