By Kevin Posival
Fort Hood Herald
Jay Nelms plays basketball and makes it look easy. To him, it is. He has known little else than the chair since a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down when he was 3.
For Capt. Bill Keating and Sgt. Jen Lee, it's not easy. They are blessed to have their lives, but without the use of their legs, life is anything but easy.
Introducing Nelms and members of the University of Texas-Arlington Movin' Mavs wheelchair basketball team with Wounded Warriors like Keating and Lee - members of a makeshift team from the Center for the Intrepid - and other area soldiers and children was what last Friday's U.S. Paralympic Showcase was all about.
The event was hosted by Fort Hood's Child Youth and School Services Department within Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
"The athletes are absolutely incredible. The showcase of just talent and strength and agility and everything is absolutely amazing," said Janelle Casson, director for Youth Sports and Fitness on post. "I would love to share the knowledge and share that experience with more of the masses in the Fort Hood area, but to just start here and just get the awareness out there that they're just the same athlete as you and I that's out there doing PT is just amazing."
After a three-hour morning basketball clinic and a break for lunch, members of the Movin' Mavs and the Center for the Intrepid teams were split for a scrimmage, with 20-minute halves, and then welcomed students and visitors onto the floor to take part in a variety of exercises, drills and hands-on activities.
"It was really good. We got a lot of people to come out here to see what a paralympic, disabled sports is about to pretty much show everybody what you can do after being disabled," said Lee. "It's good to be out there to show people."
Lee wouldn't say what caused his injury, but said that competing with guys like Nelms was as inspirational as it was educational.
Keating, without even thinking about harm or injury, tried to hop onto a slow-moving train. He remembers right before and right after, but not what went wrong. He's been left with two prosthetic legs.
"It sucks to be an amputee, but technologies are improving ... there's cool stuff on the horizon that makes it not a terrible time to be an amputee; obviously, I have no feet and I can still walk," Keating said.
Nelms was a member of the Paralympic Men's Wheelchair Basketball National Team that won a gold medal in the 2002 world championships and has played on the last two U.S. Paralympic teams that finished out of the medals in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympic games.
In 2002, the former UTA captain also led the Movin' Mavs to one of their seven national championships and was part of the first draft of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association when he was picked by the Denver Nuggets. He also played in Italy and spent the last two years in the Dallas Mavericks organization.
"The older you are the harder it is, probably, to cope with at first. The younger you are, you don't know any better so ... it's all natural to you," Nelms said.
"... But I think, in a way, for most people, it's definitely a blessing in disguise," Nelms added. "It may be tough when it first happens, but it kind of opens your mind up and opens you up to way more different possibilities. Like I don't think I ever would be travelling to Italy and France and anywhere else had it not been for being disabled."
Contact Kevin Posival at email@example.com or (254) 501-7562.