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Posted: Friday, March 2, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:50 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Chris McGuinness

Harker Heights Herald

Smacks of the ball on the hardwood floor, shouts of players, cheering fans and the clash of metal on metal filled the air at the Harker Heights Recreation Center, as athletes from the city's adaptive sports program took to the basketball court.

The Harker Heights Hustlers, a wheelchair basketball team of about 15 players, took on members of an Austin team recently as part of the Harker Heights Bash, an event that featured four games between the two teams.

"It's really a testament to adaptive sports," said Joe Brown, the city's recreation superintendent. "It's a really unique program, and we're proud to have it here."

The adaptive sports program, which has been in Harker Heights for the past two years, serves athletes with physical disabilities. Brown said the program was the first sustainable adaptive sports program in Bell County.

"As a wounded soldier myself, I understand the value of having competitive sports for those with disabilities in the local community," said Brown. "It's not just about sports; it's about the competition and social interaction."

Brown said the program has participants as young as 13 and accepts new members.

"We want to get the word out and let everyone know there is a place that offers adaptive sports for people at all levels," he said.

In addition to basketball, Brown said, the program offers other sports including volleyball, rock climbing and hand cycling. This summer, Brown said he hopes to add archery.

Adam Henning, who lost his left leg in a workplace accident, said the program has allowed him to satisfy his passion for playing competitive sports.

"I played a lot of ball before, and to be able to find sports you can play is really a blessing," said Henning. "It feels awesome to get out there on the court and play."

Henning described wheelchair basketball as an aggressive, physical game.

"I would say it's very intense, more intense than stand-up basketball," said Henning.

A self-described "sports fanatic," Henning said he has participated in other adaptive sports, including baseball, volleyball, rock climbing and hockey.

"If they have it, I try it," he said.

Brown said the program highlights the need for recreation departments in cities to create programs and activities for all segments of the populations they serve.

"It's a very real need, because these guys and girls need a place to play," said Brown. "It's about offering programs that enhance the quality of life for everyone in our community."

For more information on the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation adaptive sports program, call (254) 953-5657 or email jbrown@ci.harker-heights.tx.us.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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