Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams look to repeat as national champions

Courtesy of Alabama Adapted Athletics
Alabama wheelchair basketball player Evan Lott (#3) takes a shot on goal.

With less than two weeks until the RGK Tide Tipoff, the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams are ready for their 2023-2024 campaign to begin.  

Both teams are defending national champions for the men’s and women’s leagues and look to keep the program’s well-known winning culture going for this year’s season. 

“The ultimate goal is to win a national championship again this year. That’s the big one. Also, to just play our best and live up to the Bama standard,” freshman Mary McLendon said. 

 One reason that Alabama stays so far ahead of the competition with its 20 national championships across all adapted athletics sports is its facility. Stran-Hardin Arena is the biggest facility in the world dedicated to adapted athletes.  

 It is one of the many reasons incoming freshmen like McLendon and Gabriel Taylor chose to bring their talents to Tuscaloosa. 

 State-of-the-art facilities, including weight training, are essential when picking a college to play for, especially in a sport that requires as much upper-body strength as wheelchair basketball does. 

“Majority of our workouts focus on shoulders, arms and chest so that we can get the wheels going fast and get the ball in the hoop,” Taylor said. 

 With these facilities, the program can use them as leverage when recruiting players to come to The University of Alabama instead of other schools. Alabama can get cream-of-the-crop players and bring in high school national champions, like McLendon and Taylor, and keep the winning culture going by bringing in winners. 

 Both the men’s and women’s teams return a majority of their players from their national championship runs the season before. One of the returning players, junior Eric Francis, is excited for his new leadership role on the team. 

 “This year, I want to be a good team leader and bring up the younger guys. We want to play as a team and play as a brotherhood and win UA another national championship,” Francis said. 

 Alabama’s winning culture is not just because of the players or the facility, but also the coaching staff the program has put together. Both head coach Ford Burttram and assistant coach Michael Auprince played their collegiate wheelchair basketball careers for Alabama before becoming coaches. 

 Burttram and other Australians on the team at the time recruited Auprince, who is from Australia, to Alabama and Auprince went on to play overseas afterward. Auprince returned to the United States, heard about an open coaching position with UA Adapted Athletics, and took the job. 

 “When the previous assistant coach left, I got a call from the guys here, and they knew I wanted to coach and that I knew the system they were going to be running. Now I get paid to do something I love,” Auprince said. 

 Burttram and Auprince both bring experiences to the Alabama Adapted Athletics program they can spread to their players, turning them into role models for the team. 

 “Right now, I look up to Coach Auprince the most because he has played internationally for years so he just knows more about the game,” Taylor said. 

 After the RGK Tide Tipoff scrimmages on Oct. 13, the Crimson Tide hosts the ABC Medical Classic at Stran-Hardin Arena with the women playing a game each day Oct. 27-28 and the men playing two games on Oct. 28. 

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