A local basketball team is heading to nationals as the two-time defending champions, but they aren’t your typical players. They’re proving that despite having disabilities, anything is possible.
Since he was young, KJ Russ says he’s loved basketball. “To my knowledge I was going to be in the NBA and then I started getting older I realized I can't play regular basketball." He couldn’t play because he was born with spina bifida.
Then nine years ago he heard about a team he could play on and it’s changed his life ever since. “It’s just a thrill. It’s just so much fun to be out there."
Russ is part of the varsity Nebraska Red Dawgs wheelchair basketball team. Teens from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota are on the team. It’s a place where they can forget about their disabilities and instead have a level playing field.
“When we are at school there is no one else in our predicament, but when we get together, I think that’s one thing that helps us bond, we are all in the same situation,” said Dylen Fischbach.
Their coach, Mike Cult, said being on the team also helps them grow. “We see our kids not only grow as an athlete, but as an individual."
These players don’t just play, they are really good. They are the two-time defending champions and currently ranked second in the country. “We’ve been practicing super hard and trying to keep the intensity up at practice and try to stay focused at all times,” said Russ.
Their goal is to win the title a third time. These teens are proving that even with a disability, with a lot of hard work, you can become a champion.
The nationals take place April 17th in Louisville, Kentucky. The Red Dawgs also have a junior varsity team.