Wheelchair Basketball Follows Same Trends of Able-Bodied Game

Three-pointers, match-up zone defenses, physical play and the basic pick-and-roll are the rage. One-on-one play, hotdogging and two-handed chest shots are passe.

Wheelchair basketball is going the same directions as the college and pro games.

Except for five-second calls instead of the usual three and two pushes rather than two steps on layups, the rules are the same as in the NCAA.

In fact, one of the NBA's new rules--"the breakaway foul"--was originally used on a experimental basis in the National Wheelchair Basketball Assn., governing body of the Southern California Wheelchair Basketball League.

The SCWBL will hold its annual postseason All-Star game at UC San Diego's gymnasium at 3 p.m. today. The game will include the best players from the 10-team league, which includes teams from San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Tucson.

The league, which plays a 30-game schedule from October to February, has its own run-and-gun teams like Nevada Las Vegas (the L.A. Stars) and half-court teams like the NBA's Detroit Pistons (Casa Colina from Pomona).

"The better teams have at least a fast break, but running-and-gunning doesn't get you anywhere," said Roger Bogh of San Diego, the all-star chairman who has played wheelchair ball for five years and will participate today. "Flashy play doesn't really get you anywhere, either. I've seen people dribble behind the back, but you do it when your team is getting blown out.

"It's just not that exciting for players to come up the floor and throw up shots. The plays like the pick-and-roll and the give-and-go are more effective and fun to watch."

But, Bogh said, there are instances where flashy play can be advantageous.

"There's a guy who can twist his body underneath the basket and throw a hook up with the other hand," Bogh said. "It's almost like a reverse layup. It's a tough shot to stop."

Bogh said the better players are ambidextrous, able to push the wheel, shoot or dribble with either hand.

"It's really an advantage," Bogh said. "There are players who will lean in to the other player then switch the ball to the other hand and shoot."

But no matter how talented or tall a player is, he can usually be stopped by team play.

"You need team play because in 'chairs you can't jump--so without it, the tallest players would be the ones winning all the games," said Riverside's Guy Perry, who formerly played for the San Diego team and will be in his second all-star game today. "Like in able-body basketball, the defense creates the offense."

According to Perry and Bogh, the most effective defense is the switching man-to-man, a version of the matchup zone.

"Last year's NCAA wheelchair champion, Grand Rapids, was the smallest team, but they knew how to position the chairs and keep the other teams out," said Perry, who played on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's NCAA wheelchair championship team seven years ago. "You try and deny people position. It's still a thinking man's game."

Zone defenses were utilized until a couple years ago, when the three-point shot was introduced. Bogh said the league's three-point percentage has climbed to about 30%.

"A zone is old technology," Bogh said. "You'll get killed by the three-pointer."

Bogh said there are some players who shoot in the 40% range from beyond 19-foot-9 inches. Perry said he patterned his perimeter shot after ex-Milwaukee Buck Jon McGlocklin.

"He ended up being one of my better friends," Perry, who became disabled at age 18. "So now I shoot the 'Jonny rainbow' shot."

Perry, 25, said wheelchair basketball is still in its infant stages, and the public does not yet understand or appreciate it.

"We are where women were 10 years ago," he said. "We are now trying to get to the same echelon they are now. All we want is respect as athletes. I think we're beginning to get that respect. People are beginning to realize we're athletes too."

Tickets for today's game are $5 in advance, $3 with student I.D. and $7.50 at the door.

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