Colorado Springs, Colo. – The U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball roster for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games has been reduced from 26 athletes to 16 and is headlined by 10 returning U.S. Paralympians. The four-day selection camp consisted of intense practices and a variety of testing drills at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. The 10 U.S. Paralympians have played together in a variety of combinations starting with the 2004 Athens Paralympics through the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
The final selection of 12 athletes that will represent the United States at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games will occur in June, after several more evaluation camps and friendly international competitions. The Rio Paralympics are scheduled for Sept. 7-18.
Mike Paye of Macomb, Mich., and Steve Serio of Westbury, N.Y., the two captains of the gold-medal winning 2015 Parapan Am Games Team, lead the roster of 16 athletes and both hope to make their third Paralympic Games. They played together on the 2006 and 2010 World Championship teams, and were together again at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics where the U.S. finished fourth. Paye was a member of the 2004 Athens Paralympic Team, and Serio was a contributor to the bronze-medal 2012 U.S. London Paralympics team.
Looking for a return fourth trip to the Paralympics is a pair of athletes, Jeremy Lade of Milton, Wis., and Matt Scott of Southfield, Mich., who have both played in consecutive Paralympics from 2004-2012. Lade has also played on three World Championships (2002, 2006, 2010), while Scott has been a part of the last three World Championships.
2012 U.S. Paralympians Josh Turek of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Will Waller of Hudson, Ohio, are trying to make their third Paralympic Games. Turek, a member of the 2014 U.S. World Championship squad that won a silver medal, first played on the big stage in 2004, while Waller, a three-time world championship player, got his first taste of the Paralympics in 2000.
Ian Lynch of Bellevue, Ky., Nate Hinze of Oshkosh, Wis., and Trevon Jenifer of Edinboro, Pa., are attempting to make their second Paralympic squad after winning bronze at the 2012 London Paralympics. Also joining in the journey for a second Paralympics is Matt Lesperance of Sun Prairie, Wis., who was a member of the 2010 World Championships and the 2008 Paralympics.
In quest of their first U.S. Paralympic Team are five standouts who helped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto: Jared Arambula of Valparaiso, Ind.; Brian Bell of Forest Park, Ill.; John Gilbert of Salisbury, Mo.; Aaron Gouge of Grand Prairie, Texas; and Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wis.
Jorge Sanchez of Dublin, Calif., is the newest addition to the pool of U.S. Paralympic hopefuls and has played for the University of Texas at Arlington. He was also a member of the championship team at the 2013 America’s Zone Qualifier for the 2014 World Championships.
The cumulative participation at major events of the 16 athletes proves to be rich with veteran talent and a welcomed addition of younger elite athletes. By the numbers, this group has 18 Paralympic Games and 23 World Championships combined. The roster returns eight from the 2014 World Championships and 10 from the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
“It has been a pleasure to work with the high quality of athletes that attended this selection camp,” said U.S. Men’s Head Coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Mo. “I’m thoroughly impressed with their continued improvement each day, and that is all we can ask for. We are pleased with the 16 athletes selected and think there is a nice balance between veterans and newcomers. Our focus is now turned towards preparing our players to compete in Rio.”
The U.S. Men’s team qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Canada, earlier this year. The U.S. men dominated the competition by outscoring their six opponents by 36 points per game and defeated Canada en route to the gold medal.
In addition to Lykins, Robert Taylor of Chicago, Ill., and John Sikora of Pittsburgh, Pa., will serve as assistant coaches at the 2016 Paralympic Games. This coaching squad has been together since 2005, which included the U.S. women’s 2008 gold-medal performance at the Paralympics, the silver medal at the 2014 Men’s World Championships and the reigning Parapan Am Games champions. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Mo., will serve as the team leader.
The U.S. Men’s team brought home a bronze medal from the 2012 London Paralympics and looks to improve in Rio de Janeiro. The men’s team finished 7th in 2008 and fourth in 2004, following bronze-medal performances in 2000 and 1996. The last time that the U.S. men’s team last won a gold medal was at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea.
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Head Coach: Ron Lykins, Columbia, Mo.
Assistant Coaches: Robert Taylor, Chicago, Ill.; John Sikora, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Team Leader: Scott Meyer, Columbia, Mo.
Athletic Trainer: Mary Vacala, Savannah, Ga.
Strength Coach: Michael Cohen, Savannah, Ga.
ABOUT THE NWBA:
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) is the recognized National Organization for Wheelchair Basketball by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation and the Paralympic Sport Organization by the United States Olympic Committee. The NWBA trains and selects teams for participation in the Paralympic Games, World Championships, and other international competitions. The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) is comprised of over 200 wheelchair basketball teams across 22 conferences and seven divisions. The NWBA was founded in 1948, and today consists of seven divisions including: Championship Division, Division III, Women's Division, Intercollegiate Men's Division and Intercollegiate Women's Division, as well a Junior 10' and Junior Prep Divisions.
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association hosts the NWBA National Tournament each year where the top teams from each division come together to compete for their national title. The past few years the tournament has been hosted in Louisville, Ky., and will be hosted there again April 7-10, 2016. For more information, visit: www.nwba.org.