The University of Alabama men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams spent spring break collecting rings as both teams earned National Champion titles.
UA’s Stran-Hardin Arena hosted the women’s tournament March 8-11 where they defeated the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks 88-41 to claim their ninth championship title and the team’s third in a row. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“We worked hard all season, and it paid off,” said junior Mary Silberman. “We were undefeated the whole season and ended it on a sweet note by hosting the national championship and winning it at home!”
“My favorite part was seeing the smiles on my freshmen’s faces and knowing that this will be a memory that they hold forever,” said graduate student Lindsey Zurbrugg. “I’m so proud of this squad. I can’t wait to see how far they will continue to go.”
The women’s team capped off the 2022-23 season with an 18-0 conference record and 25-2 overall.
“We truly did it together. The support is incredible and I love playing basketball with these ladies,” added junior Bailey Moody.
“I could not be more proud of this team, this family. We talked from day one that this team had a chance to be great,” said Ryan Hynes, head coach of the women’s wheelchair basketball team. “I knew that we had the talent to be special, but we had to come together in order to make that happen.”
That feeling of being more like family this season echoed throughout the men’s team as well.
“We worked amazingly as a unit this year … more so than any team I have been a part of while at Alabama. Our faith and trust in each other continued to grow throughout the season and helped us peak during the national tournament,” said junior Peter Berry.
“Everyone understood that we had trained adequately enough throughout the season to beat any team in front of us … we were our own toughest opponent.”
They defeated the Arizona Wildcats during the championship competition held at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater March 15-18. The Crimson Tide had lost to the Wildcats early in the spring and that only helped solidify the team’s mission to be champions.
“I knew this team was different because of how they handled loss,” said Ford Burttram, head coach of the men’s wheelchair basketball team. “They used that loss as a way to learn and get better. They encouraged each other.”
To be able to win [a championship] was an amazing feeling. Knowing the hard work and dedication we put in throughout the season didn’t go to waste was a rewarding feeling.
“With the addition of our new assistant coach, Michael Auprince, and the incoming freshmen we knew we had the right pieces to make another run,” added sophomore Eric Francis. “Going into our national tournament we knew we couldn’t look at the overarching goal of becoming a national champion, but just taking it one game at a time because anything can happen in March.
To be able to win [a championship] was an amazing feeling. Knowing the hard work and dedication we put in throughout the season didn’t go to waste was a rewarding feeling.”
The men’s team finished out the 2022-23 season with a 15-2 conference record and 25-3 overall record.
Burttram reiterated that the entire Adapted Athletics program is a family unit of its own — supporting each other from top to bottom.
“I got emotional when I saw our senior make his free throws that put us up by five with just three seconds to go [in the championship game],” he said. “I got emotional when we got back home and the women’s team and fans were waiting here to congratulate us.
We can’t put this all together without everyone that we have working in Adapted Athletics, President Stuart Bell and Susan Bell, College of Education Dean Peter Hlebowitsh, Adapted Athletics Director Brent Hardin and Associate Director Margaret Stran, and our fans doing what they do for us.”
That is a family, by blood or not, that helps its student-athletes be champions.
“This will go down as one of the deepest teams that we have ever had in our program’s history. To go 18-0 in college games this season, speaks to this team’s refusal to be anything but the best version of ourselves,” added Hynes.
“I am so proud at how this group played for each other. This was a historic season and a historically great and dominant team. Nothing given, everything earned — and we earned a national championship!”
Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org