Movin' Mavs, Lady Movin' Mavs to compete in national wheelchair basketball tournament

Junior Antoine Gray hypes up the Movin’ Mavs in a huddle March 16, 2018, before the start of the semifinal game against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. The Movin' Mavs will travel to Champaign, Illinois to compete in the 2019 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.

The Movin’ Mavs (19-7) and Lady Movin’ Mavs (17-1) will head to Champaign, Illinois, for the 2019 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament hosted by the University of Illinois.

The Movin’ Mavs go to Champaign in search of the program’s ninth collegiate title. The team will enter the bracket-style tournament as the third seed.

“We’ve been through a lot this season, wins and losses,” freshman A.J. Hummer said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that we can win this whole thing.”

Hummer was named to the 2018-19 All-Rookie team by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. The freshman will be making his first trip to the national tournament and says he’s come a long way in his first year of collegiate ball.

“You look at me in August and my speed, my conditioning. I’ve gotten a lot stronger, I’ve been able to hit a lot more shots,” Hummer said. “Every single day I’m learning something new.”

The Movin’ Mavs finished in third place at last year’s national tournament, suffering a loss in the semifinals to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Warhawks are the top seed in this year’s tournament.

UTA will first square off against the host of the tournament, the University of Illinois, at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The sixth-seeded Illinois defeated the Movin’ Mavs in November, but head coach Doug Garner said his team can win if they communicate on defense and be patient on offense.

Garner and the Movin’ Mavs won the national title in 2017, the program’s first since 2006. They’ll look to reach the top again in Champaign.

“We’ve gotta be able to just go on the court and play basketball one possession at a time,” Garner said. “Basketball is basketball, if you can break it down like that.”

Movin' Mavs, Lady Movin' Mavs to compete in national wheelchair basketball tournament

Graduate student Morgan Wood attempts to get passed two University of Alabama defenders during the championship game March 17 at the 2018 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. The Lady Movin' Mavs will compete in the 2019 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.

The Lady Movin’ Mavs head to Illinois looking for its second straight national title and its third in four years.

The program started in 2013 and has established itself as a national powerhouse in women’s wheelchair basketball. The top-seeded Lady Movin’ Mavs finished the regular season with only one loss and went undefeated in division play.

UTA is led into the national tournament by a senior class that head coach Jason Nelms said was the young program’s first major recruiting class. The Lady Movin’ Mavs’ current group of five seniors have each been present for both of the team’s titles.

“We’re a family at this point. We started this together. We’ve seen the ups, the downs, in our personal lives, in our basketball lives,” senior Morgan Wood said. “We made it this far together, we gotta make it to the end together.”

The Lady Movin’ Mavs will take on fourth-seeded UW-Whitewater on Thursday at noon. If they advance, they’ll face the winner of the Illinois and University of Alabama semifinal in the national championship game Friday. 

Nelms said he expects that the 17-1 Lady Movin’ Mavs and the 21-3 Alabama Crimson Tide will meet for a rematch of the 2018 final.

"We don't want to look past anybody, but at the same point we really know that it comes down between us and Alabama," Nelms said.

The Lady Movin’ Mavs defeated Alabama by a score of 65-55 to claim last year’s title in Minnesota.

UTA and Alabama met up again at the end of February in the UA Early College Collegiate Classic. UTA won 70-64.

Nelms said he feels confident heading into nationals and that his group of seniors makes his job easier.

“The girls, they learn so much in five years that there’s not much that I still have left to teach the senior ones,” he said. “Other than just making sure that they stay focused and really enjoy nationals for the last time that they go there.”

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