A high school wheelchair basketball team from Washington is heading to a national tournament where they'll play against some of the top players in the country.
“This is the culmination of a four-year journey for some of us,” said Seattle Junior Sonics Head Coach Ben Chao.
Chao said the team's limitations are their motivation.
“What I like to say at the end of most huddles is, ‘I hope you attack life the way that you attack basketball,” Chao said. “I know for some guys it's the reason why they get out of bed in the morning. It's what they're always thinking about.”
Luke Robinson, a 17-year-old high school senior from Mill Creek, didn’t think he belonged on the court with the rest of the team when he first started playing.
“When I first started, it was like, ‘I don't want to be seen as that kid in the wheelchair,’” he said during a recent practice.
Robinson could walk just fine and played able-bodied basketball. He didn’t need a wheelchair like his dad, Karl, who has a genetic condition causing paralysis below the waist.
But Robinson often tagged along to his dad's wheelchair basketball practices and tournaments. The teen has the same genetic condition as his dad and older brother, Jacob, but said he’s not heavily affected.
“There are some things that do affect me. My legs are weaker, my muscles are tighter,” Robinson said. “As I get older, it'll probably get worse and worse.”
One day, a youth team was short on players and needed an extra. So, Robinson gave it a shot. It turns out he was made for the sport and is now heading to the national tournament with the rest of the team.
Win or lose, Robinson has a promising career ahead. Next fall he’ll join the wheelchair basketball team at Auburn University on a partial scholarship. He said the sport, which once felt like a fallback, helped him outmaneuver his obstacles.
“If anything, the condition has been a blessing to me. It's opened a lot more doors and opportunities than I would've gotten if I didn't have it,” said Robinson.