Shooting for Success

1 decade 9 months 3 weeks ago Sunday, September 02 2007 Sep 2, 2007 Sunday, September 02, 2007 10:10:15 PM CDT September 02, 2007 in Sports

You won't hear tennis shoes squeaking on this basketball court, but that doesn't mean you won't hear a different kind of rubber. Mizzou junior John Gilbert started playing wheelchair basketball after doctors removed a tumor from his spine when he was just nine years old.

"His legs were burning, it didn't feel right, and I worked 30 miles away, and when I got to him, he says, 'I can't feel my legs mom,'" said John's mother Robin Gilbert.

Wheelchair basketball worried the single mother.

"The first wheelchair basketball game me and my mom ever saw, we were watching it and I was like, 'Yeah I'd really love to do this,' and then somebody hit a bleacher and had to get ten stitches in his head and my mom's like, 'nope!'" remembered MU wheelchair basketball co-captain John Gilbert.

After begging and pleading, John got the okay from his mom to play, but mastering a ten-foot shot sitting down wasn't easy. John's mom stepped in for support.

"I sat on the ground with the basketball and I shot. I made that first basket-it has never happened since; I've tried to shoot from a chair, I've tried, and it never happened. I made that one shot and John realized, if his mom could do it, he was going to do it," said Robin Gilbert.

And that dedication caught the attention of Mizzou's coach who e-mailed John for recruitment.

"His reply said something about how it would be his dream to come to the University of Missouri and how he would love to represent his home state," said MU wheelchair basketball head coach Steve Paxton.

But Paxton wasn't the only person to take notice. Coaches from the U.S. Men's Wheelchair Basketball team contacted John.

"I had no clue about it and I was like, 'alright!'" said Gilbert.

The U.S. Men's national team won gold in the Para-Panamerican games in Brazil this past summer, but expensive travel kept his family at home.

"It's okay, if he has this opportunity, that's great. That's absolutely fantastic. I mean I wish I could go and watch him, I mean that would be awesome," said Robin Gilbert.

John says one of his most memorable moments was hearing the Stars Spangled Banner.

"It just sends like the little shrivel down your spine. You're just like, 'Wow,'" said Gilbert.

He says his experience will benefit the team back at school.

"By playing with all of those veterans down there, I think my role this year will be that much greater," said Gilbert.

Up next, John is trying out for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

The Wheelchair Basketball team tips off their season October 13 in St. Louis. Their first home game is October 21st.

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