The Toyota International Wheelchair Basketball Showdown kicked off with a game between Japan and a squad that consisted of Movin’ Mavs team members, alumni and Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks. The Dallas/Movin’ Mavs team beat the Japanese National Paralympic team 75-50 at the Maverick Activities Center.
In hindsight, it was simply a game between UTA and Japan. But ultimately, the tournament solidified relationships.
Juan Soto, Movin’ Mavs assistant coach, said the tournament game was an exhibition match for the team. It gave the select players who came out a chance to play, get minutes and compete during the offseason.
But beyond the scoreline, the game had bigger implications within the tournament itself. Soto said it was a chance to put on a good show but also gain international experience.
The tournament pits the Movin’ Mavs, Team USA, Japan and Spain against each other several times throughout the next six days, said Doug Garner, Movin’ Mavs head coach.
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association organized the tournament to act as a tune up game for Team USA leading up to the 2019 ParaPan American Games in Lima, Peru, which will determine who qualifies for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Three of Team USA’s 12-member squad include UTA alumni Jorge Sanchez, Michael Paye and Aaron Gouge. Games will be played from Thursday to Tuesday at the Maverick Activities Center at UTA, with featured games taking place at Prosper High School on Saturday.
Will Waller, CEO of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, said the relationship between the association and UTA is strong for a variety of reasons, including the UTA alumni that make it to the Paralympic level, Garner’s role in the collegiate basketball world and the strength of its men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams.
“Based on our history as an organization, many countries are really excited to come and compete against our programs,” Waller said. “We’ve really enjoyed hosting other programs and building a strong relationship with them.”
Soto said UTA is blessed to have the chance to host a tournament like this one and hopes the tournament can grow in the years to come.
“Having a solid relationship with U.S. Paralympics is great, and having the opportunity to host elite level wheelchair basketball players here, that’s always a plus,” Soto said.