COLUMBIA — Nate Murray, 13, from Alexandria, Va., took two determined dribbles along the baseline before glancing at a teammate waving his hands wildly directly underneath the basket.
But before Nate could make a decision to shoot or pass, a buzzer interrupted, and the final day of the MU Wheelchair Basketball Camp came to a close. The second annual camp for ages 12 to 19 ran for five days and was held in the MU Student Recreation Complex.
MU's wheelchair basketball team coach Ron Lykins patted Nate on the back and told the other campers to form a huddle. Ray Petty, a wheelchair basketball coach from Topeka, Kan., watched from the sideline.
“This camp has come a long ways, thanks to MU and Coach Lykins,” Petty said. “I think all of the kids are worn out, but they know it is worth the experience and have grown because of it.”
Petty, who was there to pick up his Kansas team, said that as long as his players bring him good reviews, he will come back.
One of Petty’s players, Josh Ruoff, 15, said he will definitely be back next year. He said his speed and shot had "gotten loads better."
“Coach Lykins is the best coach I have ever seen,” Josh said. "He just has this way of communicating with you. He finds out what’s wrong and how to fix it.”
For Ashley McGeeney, 16, of Kansas City, this was her first basketball wheelchair camp experience.
“I simply loved it,” Ashley said. “I have gained lifelong friends and will surely be coming back next year.”
Basketball is now tied with tennis for her favorite sport.
Due to spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord, Ashley has been in a wheelchair her entire life. Her mother, Patty McGeeney, said that in addition to confidence, the camp has given her daughter “a feeling of community and belonging that is priceless.”
“Playing basketball with other kids around her age in wheelchairs shows Ashley that she is not alone in the experiences she has undergone,” McGeeney said.
Lykins said last year's two-day camp drew 14 participants and cost $5, because it was a much shorter program and excluded food and housing. This year's program had 26 participants from 11 states and cost $425, including housing at Johnston Hall and food at Plaza 900.
“What we are looking for in the next year is growth, which will certainly come with time,” Lykins said.