Riley Foster uses a jab step to feel out his defender.  Ronan O’Doherty photo

Riley Foster uses a jab step to feel out his defender. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Quesnel Special Olympic Basketball doubles enrollment

Program offers a second group for the casual hoops player looking to improve

Is there any greater feeling than dribbling a large orange ball up a hardwood floor, confusing your defender with a shot fake and sinking an easy J?

Many of Quesnel’s Special Olympic athletes would argue there is not.

By opening up the sport to a wider group of competitors, hoops fever has taken over.

“I sensed that there were a number of potential athletes out there who wanted to play basketball but wouldn’t fit with this group,” says Rick Prosk, the program’s coordinator, when referring to the A/B team which has been around for around 10 years.

“There are some pretty high calibre players.”

Prosk opened up a second group for the more casual C/D level competitor and saw enrollment increase considerably.

“It double our participation,” he says. “We went from 15 to about 32.

“There were a couple athletes that left the A/B program and went over to the C/D program as they felt it would be a better fit for them.”

A/B players gather on Thursday nights at Correlieu Secondary School’s gym, while their counterparts play in the Riverview Elementary School’s facilities.

The players run passing, dribbling and shooting drills before playing some three-on-three games.

“It’s a team game that pretty much anybody can pick up and play,” says Prosk about the game’s draw.

“In the C/D program, we have kids nine years of age and older playing, as well as some adults who are probably in their 40s.

“It’s a real mix of ages and abilities, but I think that’s the appeal.

“Our daughter is playing for the first time this year,” he adds.

“She’s been in Special Olympics for almost 20 years and suddenly basketball is her favourite sport.

“I don’t know if she’s always wanted to play and this was finally her opportunity, but she’s very motivated and it fits in well with the other team sports she plays.”

Cyril Tobin is the coach of the A/B team and started the basketball program.

“Our team this year probably looks better than any team we’ve had,” he says.

“The older guys have been the top of the pecking order, but the new group of guys are making them work.”

The A/B squad traditionally has a home-and-home series against the Prince George team in late January that everyone practices hard for.

A couple years ago they also travelled to the Lower Mainland and competed in a March Madness style tournament, winning first place in the B division.

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