Some people don’t really know the meaning of the word. Some may not have even heard it unless their parents were John Wayne fans. But if you look it up, you’ll find that it means a firmness of mind or spirit.
And for Trice Ham, the head coach of the TIRR Memorial Hermann Jr. Hotwheels, it was the first word he went to when asked about his coaching style. “We try to teach our players how to play with grit. And not just to play physical, but to persevere through the hardships of the game.” He wants his players to have a strong character not only for their games in the present, but for their lives in the future.
Ham proudly recalled their last tournament, when they faced the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the Junior Division back-to-back-to-back. After starting the second half behind all three games, the Hotwheels ended up winning every one of them. Grit like that takes some strong leadership.
Any coach will tell you that when they try to steer their team in a certain direction, having a team captain who is on the same page is essential. It doesn’t take long for Ham to start talking about Team Captain Carrington Marendes after talking about grit and hard work.
“His work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in able-bodied or adaptive athletics, even in DI sports,” Ham explained. “He is constantly in the gym trying to improve.” His work ethic is probably what led to him being named a team captain in his freshman year of high school.
When you speak with Marendes, the Hotwheels' leading scorer, you can tell that not only is he an impressive young man, but he has the confidence that any team would want in their leader. And he seems to have had that confidence even before he started playing wheelchair basketball.
One day, when Marendes was receiving treatment at a hospital, the old coach of the Hotwheels approached him. “She told me, ‘hey, you look like a basketball player,’” Marendes remembered. And the young man who had never played wheelchair basketball before replied, “yeah, I am a basketball player!” He took that confidence to the Hotwheels practice that night, and the rest is history.
As an eight grader at the time, it didn’t take long for Marendes to make a name for himself on the team. “Carrington didn’t get many minutes his first year with the team, but I’ll never forget his first major game at the NWBT that year,” Ham recalled. The Hotwheels were down in the second half of their second-round game and Ham decided to give his young bench player a chance to prove himself. “In the first minute of his very first game in a National Tournament, Carrington flies down the court, makes a basket and gets fouled, leading to a three point play.” After that, Ham knew the young man would become a staple in their roster.
That year, they won the Varsity National Championship for the Junior Division and Marendes played some critical minutes in the championship game. But unfortunately for them, it would be Marendes’ only championship victory with the team after finishing second in his second year and fifth in his third year. But Marendes and the Hotwheels are looking to change that narrative in his fourth run at the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical.
So far this season, they have gone undefeated at currently sit on top of the Junior Division rankings from February. As for predictions, both Marendes and Ham seem very confident going into this years National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical. “We expect to win it all,” Ham stated. “At the beginning of the year, we sat down as a team and set goals for ourselves. We wanted to go undefeated this season and end it with a National Championship victory. And now we are only four games away from achieving all of that.”
The TIRR Memorial Hermann Hotwheels aren’t the type of team to let go of their goals easily, so any team facing them in the next month will have to give it their all to end with a victory. You could say that to beat them, you will need one thing above all else…