COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – The NWBA is excited to announce the team staff for the 2021 U.S. Men’s U23 World Championship Team. Current Alabama Men's Wheelchair Basketball Head Coach, Ford Burttram of Pensacola, Florida, will serve as the head coach, and is making his first coaching assignment of a NWBA high performance team. Joining Burttram on the sidelines as assistant coaches are Jacob Counts of Covington, Kentucky, Doug Garner of Arlington, Texas, team leader Preston Howell of Belmont, North Carolina, and the team medical staff David Becker of Matthews, NC. The team staff was selected by the NWBA High Performance Committee.
Burttram played abled-bodied basketball before sustaining his disability and began playing wheelchair basketball for the Mobile Patriots after high school. Post graduation, he accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he was named Collegiate All-American as a freshman.
He then returned to Mobile and became the head coach for the Mobile Patriots. In 2006, the University of Alabama started their wheelchair basketball program and Burttram was the second player to sign a letter of intent. During Burttram's playing years, he was known for his leadership and even had a leadership award named after him - the Ford Burttram Captain’s award.
Burttram was an alternate for Team USA and declined offers to play professionally overseas to coach for the University of Alabama. He was an assistant coach for the Men's and Women's programs, and won a national championship with both. Burttram became the Head Coach for the University of Alabama Men's team in 2014.
"I am truly humbled and honored to represent my country as a head coach at the under 23 world championships," said Burttram. "I look forward to the challenges and the development of the great young athletes in the USA. I am ready to get started!"
Counts is the head coach of the defending NWBA Junior Varsity National Champions, the Cincinnati Dragons. The dragons are part of the program he started in the Greater Cincinnati Adapted Sports Club (GCASC) to provide recreational opportunities for other disabled athletes. Counts has played wheelchair basketball for 18 years on multiple levels. He started playing wheelchair basketball in 1999 with the Cincinnati Slammers and went on to play for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he won three national championships. His college career led him to become a member of the U.S. National Team for four years, and play professionally overseas in Rome and Taranto.
Garner is the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Adapted Sports and Recreation and the Head Wheelchair Basketball Coach for the University of Texas-Arlington for over 13 years. He has won a National Championship as head coach in the Prep, Varsity, and Intercollegiate level. He became a member of the NWBA Hall of Fame in 2019 for revolutionizing the NWBA's Junior Division and was the Junior Division Commissioner for over 20 years. Garner is also a Technical Official for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) and has been for over a decade.
Howell is making his first appearance on a NWBA High Performance team as the team leader. Howell was an Assistant Coach for the Charlotte Rollin' Hornets Junior teams for two seasons and became the head coach for one of their teams in 2017. In addition to his extensive history with the Charlotte program, Howell has also been the Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference of the NWBA. Professionally, Howell is a Software Engineer at Mantissa Corporation where he has amassed nearly 30 years of professional experience.
Becker is an MD specializing in Family Medicine and Primary Care Sports Medicine. Becker works for Novant Health Matthews Family Physicians. He has been affiliated with the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets where his daughter competed prior to attending University of Texas-Arlington. He earned his MD at Texas Tech University before gaining internship, residency and fellowship experience at Charleston Area Medical Center
“The NWBA High Performance Committee is grateful for these leaders’ willingness to take on this exciting and important assignment for our organization," said Jim Glatch, the High Performance Committee Chair. "This Under 23 Team is a critical component of preparing this pool of athletes to compete on the world stage. Many of the men’s team in Tokyo 2020 had U23 experience in prior cycles."
The U.S. Men’s U23 World Championship Team will go through a comprehensive selection process and training schedule. The U.S. team will ultimately travel to Chiba City, Japan to represent the USA in late May to early June of 2022. This tournament is sanctioned by the IWBF.
The U23 men’s wheelchair basketball program is an international development team that serves as NWBA pipeline to the U.S. Men’s National Team. This program provides elite youth athletes the opportunity to compete at the international level. Team USA has medaled in four of the six U23 World Championships, having won gold in 2005 and 2009. The United States did not participate in 2013 and placed eighth in 2017.