High school senior Ben Thornton committed to play wheelchair basketball for the University of Arizona, but his career all started with a recommendation and the BORP Jr. Warriors.
Thornton got involved with wheelchair basketball at a young age when his physical therapist recommended that he look into adaptive sports. As a shy kid, he was not sure what to expect, but by the time he was 11, Thornton was already getting involved with varsity team practices. “It just changed my life from there,” said Thornton. “Thinking back on it, I should have [joined earlier], just because of all the people I’ve met...it’s just amazing.”
The Warriors are a varsity team based out of the Bay Area in Berkley, California and have gone 8-6 this season. While they had a shaky season last year due to the loss of some key players, they’ve since bounced back, most recently placing second in the West Coast Conference Championship against ten other teams in their conference.
The team’s most exciting moment came when they placed second place in Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Invitational towards the end of the January. Coming off a successful season and then losing key players proved to be a struggle for the team, who wasn’t used to seeing so many losses. Their success in Phoenix served as a highlight of the season and proof that they could still compete at that high of a caliber. “It was really eye opening and we were really excited. We were really proud of what we [had] done,” said Thornton regarding their championship win.
Thornton wants to set an example for the younger players on his team so that they can become strong leaders in the future. “They're the future of the program and just teaching them what's right, what's wrong, you know, not just on the court, but off the court as well,” said Thornton.
Thornton himself looks up to the adaptive athletes he watched in the last Paralympics, studying them intensely to improve his own game. He also travels down to LA every summer with some of his teammates to watch the Angel City Games, an adaptive sports festival featuring nine different sports competitions and clinics. He enjoyed watching and learning from members of the US Wheelchair basketball team while he was there. “Getting to interact with people there and learning about different sports is really cool,” said Thornton.
Thornton emphasized the advice and leadership that he learned from playing wheelchair basketball and watching professional athletes: “Even if you fail, you can still try again and you'll succeed the next time. I think that's the key for growing as an athlete when you're young, just to not, not never stop, never give up. Just keep training, working hard, and eventually you'll reach the top.”