By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Determination and dedication are qualities that 18-year-old Josh Scanlon carries with him on and off the basketball court.
Josh, who lives between Delano and Watertown, is a guard on the Courage Center’s Jr. Rolling Timberwolves wheelchair basketball team.
His team had a sweeping victory at the 2010 National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) National Championships in Denver, CO, April 7-10.
“This is the first year we just dominated the whole thing,” said Josh’s father, Eric, who is the team’s assistant coach.
The group of senior-high students from all over Minnesota is also the first team in NWBA Varsity Division history to win the championship three years in a row.
“They work their butts off,” Eric said. “They definitely earned it.”
The team practices together about 10 hours a week during their seven-month season, in addition to countless hours individually.
Josh, a senior at Watertown-Mayer High School, helped his team to victory all three years.
“We went undefeated this year,” Josh said.
Winning the national tournament was a memorable way for Josh to end his last season on the team.
Next year, Josh plans to attend Southwest State University in Marshall, playing on the college wheelchair basketball team. He will be studying speech communication, with an emphasis in television and radio.
“He didn’t consider any colleges that didn’t have a wheelchair basketball team,” his mother, Kim, said.
Before he had a wheelchair, Josh had no idea that he would enjoy basketball so much.
“The Scanlon family is really short, so I hadn’t really played before,” he said.
Instead, Josh stuck to wrestling and gymnastics.
However, at age 12, a gymnastics accident crushed his T12 vertebra, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, Josh and his brother, Matt, had been practicing gymnastics moves in the living room.
“All of his weight just hit on that one spot,” Kim said. “He didn’t have another bruise on his body.”
During his stay at the Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Josh was introduced to the idea of participating in new sports, including wheelchair basketball, mono skiing, track and field, and adaptive wakeboarding.
“He’s always been pretty athletic,” Kim said, adding that the wheelchair didn’t change that.
Three times a week for about a year, Josh went to physical, occupational, and pool therapies at the Courage Center rehabilitation facility in Golden Valley.
Through therapy, Josh learned how to effectively use his wheelchair and participated in strength training.
The Scanlon family remodeled their home to make it easier for Josh to get around.
“All the bedrooms were upstairs,” Kim said. “We converted our old family room into a bedroom for him.”
The gravel underneath the basketball hoops in the front yard was paved, as well, she added.
Josh and his brother, Matt, often practice wheelchair basketball at home. Josh usually uses his special sports chair, and Matt uses the everyday chair.
“Matt has gotten pretty good,” Kim said.
The youngest member of the Scanlon family, 13-year-old Tina, is also an athlete, and is involved in gymnastics and soccer.
Jr. Rolling Timberwolves
The Jr. Rolling Timberwolves were one of 16 teams in their division at the national championship tournament.
The other members of Josh’s team include Derrick Bisnett of Bismarck, ND, Jon Bluem of Eden Prairie, Thomas Bowlin of Eagan, Luke Braun of Mounds View, Mark Braun of Mounds View, Joe Dixon of Lakeville, Robert Doyle of Eden Prairie, Rose Hollerman of Elysian, Guthrie Lindquist of Mankato, and Robbie Wilhelm of New Brighton.
To learn more about the Courage Center and the Jr. Rolling Timberwolves, go to www.couragecenter.org.