Unlike a large percentage of wheelchair basketball players, Randy Jaramillo started playing far later in life. Jaramillo is 41 years old and plays for the Albuquerque Kings, a Division I team based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jaramillo started playing 18 years ago, after having his right knee removed due to bone cancer. Previously, he frequently played stand-up basketball and had friends who played wheelchair basketball, so he picked up the sport quickly and joined his local team. Since joining, he’s found a sense of community and learned significant lessons from playing. “Seeing that there are no barriers, no matter what, whether you're disabled in a wheelchair, or you know, you have some sort of impairment—nothing can stop you,” said Jaramillo on what he’s learned from the community and sport.
In 2016, Jaramillo got an invitation to play at the U.S. National Team’s training camp, leading up to the Rio Paraolympics. The camp, held at the University of Texas-Arlington, offered him an opportunity to grow as a player and gain new exposure to the game. The training was daunting at first, as Jaramillo noted, “I didn't have the ability to transition into college ball and take the regular route. So I was....the young inexperienced guy in comparison to all those other guys out there, yet I was one of the oldest ones out there as well.”
While Jaramillo didn’t make the 2016 team, his time at camp made a lasting impression as he was able to showcase different pathway players could take to camp and cross off a bucket list experience. “It allowed me to get some exposure and just really work on my game,” said Jaramillo, “[I] got to meet some great guys. The staff was great. And I was able to learn a lot more about the game—[it] definitely helped me improve my game.” Jaramillo has since taken a step back from the time commitment required to train for future National team camps, in order to raise his two daughters and was inspired by the lessons he learned from wheelchair basketball to get his college degree while working full time.
Jaramillo has taken some of the lessons he learned at camp into his games with the the Kings. The Kings saw tough competition throughout the season, ending the regular season 2-9. Funding has been an issue for the team, as well as occasional player absences during tournaments. “This year has been a challenge. We've started to pick it up later in the season,” said Jaramillo, “But as the seasons progress, I think the chemistry is built quite a bit...I think we're kind of on the upswing, as far as momentum is concerned.”