New program receives first commitments

Missouri’s wheelchair basketball team is drawing interest.
Thursday, April 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No one can accuse Steve Paxton of procrastinating.

Paxton, the Missouri wheelchair basketball coach, has been on the job for two months and has his first two commitments for the team’s inaugural season next year.

Missouri nets first players for team

Steve Hathaway, a freshman in psychology at MU, became the first member of the team after approaching Paxton about three weeks ago.

Garrett French, a high school senior from Cortland, Ill., committed after Illinois and Arizona recruited him.

“It’s really a coup for the program,” Paxton said.

Paxton said the rest of the team will be filled on a “come one, come all” basis before play begins in September.

He said players from Philadelphia, Houston and San Diego have expressed interest in joining.

French is No. 6 in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s all-academic rankings with a 3.3 grade point average.

Talent, intelligence make French good recruit

Paxton said French’s combination of talent and good grades make him an ideal recruit.

“That’s definitely the kind of kid you want,” Paxton said.

French, a forward, has played for seven years and been a member of the Windy City Warriors junior team for five. Paxton said the Warriors are consistently one of the best teams in the country.

“I can’t even start to tell you how exciting it is to have him,” Paxton said.

French said playing with the Warriors has improved his game.

“It’s helped me tremendously with the coaching and the camaraderie and everything,” he said.

French said the atmosphere at MU is what made his decision.

“There was so much support for the program,” French said. “Everyone was really nice.”

Hathaway set up a meeting with Paxton through a friend to inquire about the team.

Paxton said he was seeking out Hathaway, whom he heard about through Hathaway’s play in a MU disability services league.

Hathaway eager to learn from Paxton

“He e-mailed me the day I was going to e-mail him,” Paxton said.

Hathaway said he does not have an extensive basketball background. He played only in the recreational league last summer.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a great learning experience,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway said Paxton’s coaching should make up for his lack of experience, though.

“He seems very knowledgeable,” Hathaway said. “I really believe he’s the right person to lead this team.”

Hathaway, 34, said he knows he will probably be one of the oldest members of the team, but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Hathaway said.

Paxton said he likes Hathaway’s attitude and enthusiasm.

“He’s just really excited,” Paxton said.

Paxton said he is not sure of Hathaway’s position because of his inexperience, but that he is big enough to play forward.

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