Although boys basketball season ended more than a month ago at Greenbrier, one Wolfpack athlete is still playing hoops.
Senior Kurt Lawton has played basketball and rugby since his eighth-grade year. His basketball team, the Georgia Blaze, a travel club from Atlanta, is ranked in the nation's top 16 teams.
His rugby team also made the playoffs this year.
Lawton has spent his entire life in a wheelchair. Although most of his teammates are amputees, Lawton has cerebral palsy, a condition that targets his muscle and brain functions.
"Basketball can be quite challenging for people with that disability," said Dan Humphreys, the coach of the Georgia Blaze. "Kurt's made some great strides this year. It's been a joy to have him."
The team is 14-12 this year and is ranked No. 13 out of 80 teams in the country. The ranking earned the Blaze a bid to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Junior Division National Championship in Houston.
The single-elimination tournament starts Friday.
The team's organization, BlazeSports, pays for most of the travel, but each team member had to raise funds for the postseason trip.
The team is nearing its financial goal.
Lawton said the play isn't much different from regular basketball, with zone defense and dribbling violations. Each athlete uses a specially designed basketball wheelchair with slanted wheels for speed and a bar around the bottom to prevent flipping and to absorb contact.
"It's moderately rough," Lawton said. "After you flip over the first couple of times, you kind of learn to tuck your head in so it doesn't hit the ground first."
That's in basketball. Lawton also excels in wheelchair rugby.
His rugby team, which also is a part of the Georgia Blaze organization, participated in the playoffs last weekend.
With practices between the two teams each week in Atlanta, Lawton said, his life is full of sports.
"When I tell people about it, they think I'm kidding around and making stuff up," he said. "You never know until you try something whether you can do it or not."
For more information on BlazeSports or to donate to Lawton's team, visit the team's Web site, www.blazesports.com.
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