The Rollin’ Owls, Temple’s wheelchair basketball team, will travel to Charlotte, N.C., Friday to participate in the Division 3 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
With a 16-7 record and the 11th seed in the 16-team double elimination tournament, head coach Tribit Green knows that the postseason is unlike anything the team has faced so far.
“It is a new season, a different season. Nothing else matters,” he said. “I was a little disappointed in our seeding when it came out, because we have beaten several of the teams put ahead of us.
“The guys should realize that in this thing we can be playing on Friday or be back on the bus heading home.”
The team, consisting of students from Temple (including some alumni) and the Community College of Philadelphia, operates under the University’s Department of Adapted Recreation.
The game remains largely unchanged, except for a four-second rule in the lane instead of the traditional three.
Aside from playing basketball, the game teaches life skills.
Life skills like confidence, which helps to overcome the fear of being stared or laughed at because of a disability.
Skills that include determination, which led some former Rollin’ Owls to demand and establish a wheelchair division in Philadelphia’s annual Broad Street Run. Today, wheelchair divisions are standard in marathons across the United States.
Life skills that will leave an imprint on the lives of these players long after their final game is played.
“When a person becomes disabled, they must relearn all that they have known. Everything is a learning process,” said Green, who has coached the Rollin’ Owls since 1988 and led them to two national title games.
“The fact that they are out there, demanding to be included, whether it be in the college experience or life itself, wheelchair basketball gives people another viewpoint to try and be other things.
“We might be disabled,” Green said, “but we will never be disheartened. Our guys are smart, creative and talented who happen to play wheelchair basketball.”
Roger Miller, a Temple alum who played for the Owls from 1988-92, was a member of Temple’s two national finalist teams and now comes back to help the current Owls in practices.
He acknowledges the importance of Green’s vision and philosophy, but he knows when you are out on the court they are the farthest thing from your mind.
“To us, it was just ball,” Miller said. “We didn’t come in here to play around, we came in here to win. We practiced and played hard, and any newcomer had to get with the program or they were not around very long.”
Miller recognizes the life lessons that he heard every day.
“Tribit just made me mentally tough,” Miller said. “He made me aware of how hard things could be, toughened my mind to where I was prepared for anything, on and off the court.”