Shelby Gruss and Morgan Wood will serve as captains of the U.S. Women's World Championship wheelchair basketball team for the first time in their careers.
The captains were announced Wednesday just prior to the start of the 2018 U.S. Women’s International Friendly at the Olympic Training Center. Wood and Gruss will remain captains for the rest of the year, heading into the 2018 IWBF World Championships in August.
The players and coaches each gave their input in selecting the captains. Even on a team featuring two gold-medal Paralympians, head coach Trooper Johnson said the duo has been working hard and that difference set them apart. “We looked at people who were buying into the system and set a great example,” Johnson said. “They’re going to be amazing leaders, and are ready to put their stamp on the team.”
Gruss at 24 years-old and Wood, 26, are the oldest members of the squad. This year’s women’s team features one the youngest rosters ever, with an average age of 18.5 years old. Johnson said he believes age and maturity go hand in hand, but choosing the oldest players just happened by coincidence. It’s their work ethic in helping their teammates develop that stands out. “They make sure everyone is moving along -- especially the younger team members,” Johnson said. “Obviously their maturity plays a role in that.”
Gruss of Ossian, Indiana was selected to the U.S. Women’s National Team back in February of 2017. The University of Illinois star joined the team after a three-day selection camp.
Wood, from Gordonsville, Tennessee, made the national team the same year as Gruss. She helped the University of Texas at Arlington Lady Movin’ Mavs win three straight NWBA Intercollegiate National Championships (2016-2018) with current U.S. teammates Rose Hollermann of Elysian, Minnesota, and Abby Dunkin of New Braunfels, Texas.