City may fund national college wheelchair basketball tournament

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Convention and Visitors Advisory Board will decide Monday if the city will provide $10,000 in funding to assist the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in March 2015.

The advisory board doesn't vote to accept or deny funds, but members vote to make fund recommendations that will go to the city council for the final approval.

Funds will come from the Tourism Development Program (TDP) that acts like a grant that people and organizations can apply for.

"Sporting events help generate money for the city as people stay in hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores," Marketing and Communications Manager Megan McConachie said. "How they vote depends on what they kind of the event as far as its ability to generate room nights and have a positive impact on our community."

Right now they are anticipating about 600-700 people. This includes athletes, coaches, friends and family.

Other events that have been funded range from Special Olympics to roping championships and Show-Me State games.

This will be the first time Mizzou will be hosting the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.

Mizzou's Wheelchair Basketball Coach Ron Lykins said, "It is a tremendous honor to be able to host this tournament and to have some of the best teams come to Mizzou."

Even if the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board does not give money to the tournament, McConachie said it will still happen in Columbia.

Mizzou hopes to win big on home court

The Mizzou wheelchair basketball team finished fourth place at last year's tournament. One of Mizzou's Wheelchair Basketball players said this year might be even better with a home court advantage.

"This definitely could be the best year Mizzou's ever had," said Ben Mayforth, who plays the guard position. "Just by looking at the players we have and the talent we have. Overall the opportunities we have are just better this year than they have been in previous years."

The most challenging thing for Mayforth is coming close to winning but missing by a thread.

"They've been numerous times last year where we were so close to winning some really, really big games over a couple of teams," he said. "And the last few seconds we just couldn't win. That's definitely one of the hardest feelings to take in because you're right there, and it's just one or two mistakes someone makes and you lose the game."

But Mayforth said this doesn't deter him or his teammates.

"It's definitely hard to take it in, but I think that gives us a little more motivation every time we get back into the gym," he said. "It's that slight pinch at the heart saying, 'You were this close. What can I do to get that much better?' And I think that's what drives a lot of the guys on the team. It's just the reminder that we are a good team and we can beat them. We just need to get a tiny bit better."

One of his favorite memories playing for Mizzou is his first tournament where the team played against University of Illinois in 2012.

"It was the closest game we've had against Illinois in the history of our program," Mayforth said. "We were never so close to beating Illinois. It was just overall a great game and a fun experience, and it was one of my first times being in a high level game. It was just really fast and really exciting. For a tiny freshman at that time, it's just a lot to take in."

"A bunch of goofballs" is how Mayforth describes the team.

"I've seen the dynamic change a lot over my past two years and this year," he said. "Just how the guys interact with each other. We've always described it as we're all brothers, and we're going to take care of each other. I'd say it's more true this year than ever. I've never seen our team relationship so close. And right now it's probably the closest it's ever been since I've been here."

One player's personal journey to this point

Mayforth first began playing wheelchair basketball in 2007 when he was about 11-years-old.

"I'd just come off a really pretty extensive series of back surgeries," he said. "I was still fairly weak. I just needed to find something to keep active, to keep me healthy because that surgery put me on my back for two, three, four months. I literally lost tons of weight...whatever weight I did have."

"I was basically trying to get it all back, trying to develop some muscle. Just trying to learn a new way to get around because I walked mostly before that surgery, and then afterwards I had to learn how to use a chair. But...for the most part it was fine. I was fairly young, I was still able to pick up on a lot of things."

Despite the difficult situation he was in, Mayforth didn't give up fighting.

"It's just one of those things where you're just like...alright, this is happening, how can I adapt to the situation to keep on living? There's no point quitting. You just got to find a different way to push on."

Mayforth said his family has a similar attitude with the ability to adapt to tough situations and not give up.

"My whole family has been through a lot. There hasn't been a time where any of us has said, 'Alright, it's time to give up.' We've just adapted to the way we have to live and just keep on going," he said.

Mayforth said his role models are his parents, specifically his mother.

"My mom's been...had to change how our family has lived numerous of times and just had the ability to adapt and move on to the next thing is one of the key factors that I look up to my mom for."

 

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