NWBA AAC Objectives and Responsibilities

The purpose of the NWBA Athletes’ Advisory Council (AAC) is to advocate the interests of athletes in all areas of wheelchair basketball. The AAC shall partner with the Board of Directors to ensure thirty-three percent (33%) athlete representation in all decision-making bodies of the NWBA including the Board of Directors and any Committees. 

The NWBA AAC shall have the following responsibilities: 

  • Serve as a vehicle for athlete engagement; 
  • Endeavor to protect the rights of athletes; 
  • Provide athlete feedback; 
  • Build and establish relationships among all the athletes of the NWBA; 
  • Assist in identifying potential future athlete board representative candidates and introduce athletes to the NWBA’s governance structure; 
  • Serve as SafeSport and USADA ambassadors and advocates; and 
  • Develop pathways for athletes within the structure of the NWBA. 

In addition, The NWBA AAC ensures an athlete voice in the governance of the organization, actively participating in strategic initiatives and regularly attending Board and / or Committee Meetings. The NWBA Founder, Dr. Tim Nugent, was adamant that the organization be led by its membership. Additionally, the NWBA seeks to continually align with best practices from other sport organizations.

Gail Gaeng, AAC Chair (Elected 2020-2024)

Gaeng (classification 3.5), youngest of six siblings, has been playing basketball for 14 years. Starting her successful career with the Bennett Blazers, Gail has played in almost all of the NWBA Divisions: Prep, Junior Varsity, Varsity, Collegiate, Women's and Division I. Gaeng is a gold medalist, co-captain and starter from the 2016 Paralympic Games and also defended the team to win gold at the 2015 Parapan American Games and at the U25 Women's World Championships. As captain of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Team (2011 – 2016), Gaeng led the team to 2nd place at the 2015 and 2016 National Championship Tournament. Gail was named MVP at the 2018 NWBA Women's National Tournament and 2018 NWBA Player of the Month. Gaeng is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Champaign, with a B.S. degree in Business Administration - Marketing and Management. Currently, Gail works as Project Coordinator on Client Operations at Strata Decision Technology which is a healthcare tech firm based in Chicago, IL. Gail is also currently serving as a member of the NWBA High Performance Committee.

Gail Gaeng

Andrea Woodson-Smith, AAC Vice Chair (Elected 2020-2024)

Woodson-Smith (classification 4.0) has a long history in the sport of basketball having competed with the Women’s Division Dallas Lady Mavericks, Division II Dallas Mavericks, Division II Chicago Bulls, Division II RIC Hornets, Women’s RIC Sky, Division III Triangle Thunder, Division II Charlotte Rollin Hornets, Division II Charlottesville Cardinals and the Women’s Lincolnway Special Recreation Association team. In addition, Woodson-Smith was a member of the gold medal winning 2010 World Cup and 2011 Parapan American Games teams as well as the team that placed 4th at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Woodson-Smith serves as a  Sports  Envoy, a U.S. Department of State program that supports athletes and coaches to travel overseas to lead programs that are developed by U.S. embassies and consulates-discussing topics like disability rights, inclusion, gender equity and adapted sport with government leaders, organization/agency leaders, athletes, parents and students. With a B.S. degree in Kinesiology from James Madison University, an M.S. degree in Adapted Physical Education from North Carolina Central University and a PhD in Adapted Physical Education from Texas Woman's University, Woodson-Smith is very successful in her current career as a Professor at North Carolina Central University specializing in Adapted Physical Activity and Sports and Physical Education Pedagogy. Woodson-Smith is currently a member of the American Development Model for Paralympic Sport and the NWBA High Performance Committees. During her spare time, Woodson-Smith is an advocate for Colon Cancer, Children’s Cancer and equality for all girls and women in sports and a 7th grade girls Life Group Leader for New Hope Church.

Andrea Woodson-Smith

Steve Serio, USOPC AAC Representative (Elected 2022-2024)

When Serio was 11 months old, he had surgery to remove a spinal tumor which resulted in the compression of his spinal cord. Consequently, he was left paralyzed and is classified as an incomplete paraplegic. He began playing wheelchair basketball at the age of 14 as a sophomore in high school. Serio led his high school to a title and was named the MVP of the national tournament. After high school, he move from his hometown of Westbury, New York to play for the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Steve led them to a national championship, winning player of the game, NWBA tournament MVP, and the NWBA player of the year in the process. He went on to compete with Team USA and is a 3-time Paralympian decorated with a Bronze medal from the 2012 London Paralympic Games, a Gold medal from the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, and a Gold medal from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. Steve won the 2017 ESPN ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability for his performance at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. He is also a Team Toyota Athlete.

Steve Serio

Rose Hollermann, USOPC AAC Alternate (Elected 2022-2024)

Rose Hollermann was involved in a car accident that took the lives of her two older brothers and left her with an incomplete spinal cord injury. She started playing basketball at the Courage Center in Minnesota when she was seven years old. After high school, she left her hometown of Elysian, Minnesota to play at the University of Texas-Arlington. Hollermann was the leading scorer in the gold medal game against Canada at the 2015 Parapan American Games with 37 points. She went on to complete with Team USA and is a 3-time Paralympian with the team that placed 4th at the 2012 London Paralympic Games and is decorated with a Gold medal from the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and a Bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. A multi-sport athlete, Hollermann has also participated in swimming, sled hockey, archery, track & field, and cross-country skiing.

Rose Hollermann

Eric Barber, Member (Elected 2020-2024)

Starting his wheelchair basketball career at the age of 13, Barber (classification 1.0) is a 2002 NWBA National Champion, and two-time Captain Ure Sportsmanship Award recipient. Barber is a two-time bronze medalist playing with the team at the 2000 and 2012 Paralympic Games. Barber was also part of the gold medal winning teams at the 1999 and 2011 Parapan American Games as well as the 1998 and 2002 IWBF World Championships. His collection continues with a silver medal from the 2006 IWBF World Championships and a bronze medal from the 2010 IWBF World Championships. One of Barber’s fondest memories of victory is when he beat Michael Jordan in wheelchair basketball. Barber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an MBA in Management and IT and is a 2021 candidate for Doctorate of Business Administration. Barber currently works for Madison College in Human Resources and plays for the NWBA Division II Wisconsin Thunder.

Eric Barber

Harsh Thakkar, Member (Elected 2020-2024)

Thakkar (classification 2.5) has been a part of the NWBA for 13 years, beginning in 2006, nine months post injury, with the Division III NRH Punishers (formally known as the NRH Ambassadors). Thakkar was also an athlete at Edinboro University from 2008-2010 where he was awarded the Student-Athlete Award during his first season. For the past five years, Harsh has been the tournament director, team manager, classifier and athlete for the now Division 1 NRH Punishers. In addition, Thakkar has received 3rd and 2nd team all-tournament team awards in 2019 and 2020. Currently, Thakkar works as a program coordinator for the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Washington, D.C., where he facilitates an adaptive fitness program for people with neurological disabilities and a community navigation program for individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries. Harsh is the President of the United Spinal Metro DC chapter, where he continues to push the chapter’s mission, to enhance lives of individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries in the DC Metro area. Graduating from University of Maryland with a degree in Communication and Sociology, Harsh has found a way to serve other individuals with disabilities and bring awareness about inclusion, disability advocacy, and empowerment. His motto is: “help others until you’ve helped them to the point that they can help others.” Thakkar currently serves on the NWBA Ranking Committee.

Harsh Thakkar

Josie Aslakson, Member (Elected 2020-2024)

Josie has been involved with the NWBA since age 12. In that time, she has competed for the Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves, the University of Texas - Arlington Movin' Mavs, and has been a member of the Women's National Team since 2017. Josie received a BA degree in Art from the University of Texas at Arlington, studied Dramatic Writing at the New York University and most recently graduated with a degree in Global Studies with emphasis in Literature, Film, and Arts and a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Arizona. Josie is currently working on behalf of the women’s national team to create a diversity & inclusion initiative within the NWBA. She has plans to coach the University of Arizona women’s wheelchair basketball team and develop a nonprofit that provides greater resources to disabled populations of lesser means around the world.

Josie Aslakson

Mark Shepherd, Member (Elected 2022-2025)

Mark was a member of the USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team that won Bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games and a 3-time World Champion--winning Gold as a member of Team USA in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Mark has a long history of elite level sport achievements in wheelchair basketball, tennis, and racquetball. Following his successful athletic career, Mark formed the International Wheelchair Bowling Federation, served as the Executive Director of the Mountain States Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and is currently the President of The Disabled Marketing Group, LLC. Mark is a member of the American Wheelchair Bowling Association National Hall of Fame and was also inducted as the Amateur Athlete of the Year with the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame​. After serving with the U.S. Army for nearly a decade, Mark has a passion for supporting the veteran community which led him to coaching the wheelchair basketball team with the Air Force Wounded Warriors program for the past seven years. In his spare time, Mark enjoys writing and is the author of two publications – ‘Getting Back in the Game’ A layman’s Guide to Overcoming Traumatic Disability and ‘Winning the Game’ Achieving Personal Success with a Disability.

Mark Shepherd

Curtis Bell, Member (Elected 2022-2024)

Started his career playing with the Indianapolis Olympians in 1971. Member of the Indianapolis Mustangs who were NWBA Champions (1973, 1974, 1975). Relocated to Southern California & was member of the Santa Ana Raiders (who were National Champions in 1976). Then Curtis joined up with the newly formed Casa Colina Condors. The Condors went on to win the NWBA National Championship eight times (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992). Curtis is the only player in NWBA History to have played on 12 National Championship Teams. He was named the NWBT MVP five times (1975, 1980, 1981, 1983 & 1992). Selected to NWBT All-Tournament Team 17 times. Member of two USA Gold Cup Team’s & Member of 3 USA Paralympic Team’s (1988-Seoul, 1992-Barcelona, 2000-Sydney).