“We’ve worked our butts off and we’re ready to win this tournament no matter who we face.”
Speak with Joseph Chambers of the Sacramento Rollin’ Kings for a few minutes and you’ll see that confidence is not an issue for the star big man and his team.
Chambers didn’t start playing wheelchair basketball until he was 21-years-old, after being diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after high school and having his leg amputated. “I haven’t been playing as long as some of the players who worked their way up through juniors,” Chambers explained. “They may have a few years on me, but I can match up with almost any player in terms of experience.”
The Kings star admits that he has a tendency to make some blunt statements, but you can’t accuse him of exaggerating. Shortly after beginning his wheelchair basketball career, Chambers began playing for the San Jose Spartans Division II team. He made a reputation for himself as a go-to scorer and was quickly noticed by universities with wheelchair basketball teams around the nation.
He ended up choosing the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater Warhawks and may be one of the proudest alumni of the school. While at UWW, Chambers played with Paralympians like Matt Scott, Jeremy “Opie” Lade, Ian Lynch, Eric Barber and Jeremy Campbell. “Whitewater was an unbelievable place to be as far as basketball was concerned,” Chambers bragged. “Every day you were getting better whether you were trying to or not just by being around amazing players.”
Chambers went to the national championship game in the Intercollegiate Division all four years that he was attending UWW. The Warhawks won the national championship twice and Chambers was named All-American three times. Although UWW was a powerhouse in the Intercollegiate Division, one team stepped toe-to-toe with them each of the four years Chambers was a Warhawk. “There was a Whitewater/University of Illinois rivalry in those years where the four championship games we went to were all against them,” Chambers recalled. University of Illinois, one of the only schools at the time that could matchup up talent-wise with UWW, were headlined by 2016 Rio Paralympic gold medalist Steve Serio and Brian Bell in those years.
After completing a phenomenal college career, Chambers played overseas in Spain, Germany and Australia. During that time, the versatile big man spent 10 years as a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team. As a member of the U.S. Men’s roster Chambers was a two-time Paralympian and placed in the top four of every international competition he played in.
Shortly after returning to the U.S. and back to his roots in northern California, Chambers and his wife, Mieko, were approached to take over the Sacramento Rollin’ Kings. When Chambers speaks about his wife, it is hard not to think of the phrase, “behind every great man there is a great woman.”
“She is the lifeline and the heartbeat of this club,” Chambers exclaimed. “She’s our team rep, club president, head coach, non-profit president and basically does everything for us.” When a star player and head coach are married, it is possible for some tension to arise, but you don’t feel that at all when you speak to Chambers about the relationship on and off the court.
Not only do the Kings want to win the tournament because they believe they have the talent to do it, but they also have the extra motivation to win to make Mieko one of the few female head coaches to ever win the Adult Division I National Championship. They know how hard she works to keep the team going and each player wants to reward all of her hard work with a championship trophy.
But the Kings don’t need any additional motivation to win it all. They are coming into the tournament as the two seed after a very successful third season after the Chambers’ took over the team. “We’re 17-1 this season and the one loss we took was a close game against the (Dallas Wheelchair) Mavericks,” Chambers explained. “All year we’ve played top 15 teams. Our strength of schedule was one of the most difficult in our division.”
The season also included a triple-overtime game against the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks, which ended in a 114-110 victory for the Kings. Chambers scored 61 points in that game and recalls it as a moment that proved to the team that they could be champions this season.
With that level of competition, the Kings are tried and ready to make some major noise in this year’s NWBT. Headlined by Joseph Chambers, Molly Bloom and Courtney Ryan, the Kings are out to prove that their team belongs in the history books with other great Division I teams in the NWBA.
But winning a championship won’t be easy and their main challengers are teams that Chambers has a direct connection to. Not only have the Mavericks given the Kings their most contested games of the season, but Chambers has played on the U.S. National Team with a solid percentage of their roster. As for the one seed New York Knicks, Chambers is hoping to face his old college rival and U.S. National Team teammate, Steve Serio.
“I have to be honest,” Chambers proclaimed. “I want to play Dallas in the semi-finals and beat them. Then the next night I’d like to play Steve Serio and Pat Anderson and beat them in the championships.”
Like a WWE wrestler pumping up a crowd, Chambers calls out his opponents and predicts victory. Only time will tell if he will get the matchups he desires at this years National Tournament, but if he does, it will be must watch basketball.