The Windy City Warriors are, as usual, on a roll.
Coming off its ninth IHSA state championship in 10 years on March 15, the wheelchair basketball team makes its annual trip this week to the National Wheelchair Basketball National Tournament, Thursday through Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.
Drawing a fifth seed out of 16 teams advanced into the Junior Division-Varsity bracket, for high school and middle school players, the Warriors (25-12) meet the No. 12 Junior Pacers out of Indiana at 9:45 a.m. Thursday to help kick off the 66th annual tournament. If Windy City wins its opener it advances to a second Thursday game, probably against the No. 4 Nebraska Red Dawgs, and is guaranteed games Friday and Saturday. The top seed is the Courage Center Timberwolves, out of Minneapolis.
(The Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association Junior Wheelchair Bulls are in Louisville, too, competing in the Junior Division-NIT. In fact all five divisions have teams based either in Chicago or the suburbs.)
"It's really exciting," said Waubonsie Valley junior Daniel Dye, in his third season with Windy City. "You get to meet people from all over. There's teams from, like, Houston, New York, Salt Lake City."
The Warriors are a competitive sports program offered by the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, and practice at the Ackerman Sports & Fitness facility in Glen Ellyn. The coach is Winfield native Robb Taylor, an assistant coach with the U.S. Women's Paralympic Basketball Team from 2005-08.
Seniors include Hinsdale Central's Blake Harmet, Lake Park's Matt Molenkamp, Oswego East's Tim Culbertson, Joliet's Nick Umek and Elgin's Kyle Gribble, a Wisconsin-Whitewater recruit who averaged 20 points in the Warriors' 6-0 sweep through the IHSA playoffs. Dye is joined by junior Justin Harrison of Minooka, while Daniela Polencheck is an eighth-grader from Wheaton.
"I think we're really successful because we have a great coach leading us," Dye said. "I think our main game lies around our defense. Basically, if we can stop the ball on defense and turn it over we can get it down to the other side and make a pretty easy basket."
Dye was born with semi-fibular hemimelia, according to WDSRA's Sherry Manschot. In Dye's terms he was born with his right leg shorter than the left. He said he had leg-lengthening surgeries when he was in elementary school but he didn't have an ankle bone in the right leg and was unable to walk on his foot. The family opted to amputate the leg below the right knee. He wears a prosthesis.
"Basically, I just asked them to cut it off," Dye said.
He joined the WDSRA program after former Windy City coach Kevin Hosea visited Waubonsie Valley on a recruiting mission. Dye has since played on three state-championship teams.
"I was getting really bored because I can't play able-bodied sports," said Dye, a defensive specialist who plans on going to a technical college to learn how to program and design video games and then earn a culinary degree as a "backup plan."
"I think that if you're physically disabled it's a really fun pastime," he said. "You get to meet a lot of fun people, do fun things, go fun places. And even if you're not physically disabled you can still come check it out. It's really cool to see how we play."
Dye also started working in track and field with Waubonsie Valley's outstanding throws coach, Roger Einbecker. From a standing position Dye said he'd thrown the shot put 25 feet thus far.
"Dan is a great kid and he works hard," Einbecker wrote in an email.
He also noted Dye has maintained a sense of humor about his situation: "He wears a shirt to practice with the inscription, 'I'm in it for the parking.'"
Before Dye adds to his personal best distance in shot, there's unfinished business on the basketball court. The camaraderie will be wonderful in Louisville until it's time to put on the Windy City uniform.
"In between games all the teams are able to relax and hang out with each other," he said. "But during the games I think everybody takes it seriously. You could be best buddies with somebody off the court but when you're on the court if you're on opposing teams all bets are off."
St. Francis senior Jeff Jendryk has only been playing competitive volleyball about three years, but he keeps growing in stature and status.
The middle hitter, now up to 6-foot-9, gained a scholarship offer to Loyola last year. On March 21 the Jendryks learned Jeff had made the USA Men's 2014 Junior National Training Team. He's one of 19 selected to this group, with the final 12 players chosen after a training session starting around July 12.
Once selected, the Junior National Team will play July 27-Aug. 4 at the NORCECA Continental Championships in El Salvador, hoping for a third straight gold medal.
Records were set last weekend in Austin, Texas.
Coinciding with a family whirl to visit the University of Texas in Austin, the booming town hosted both the 87th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.
At the relays Texas earned the title of Most Outstanding University/College Team, aided by Waubonsie Valley graduate Morolake Akinosun. She continued her successful sophomore season by contributing to a victorious 800-meter relay and returning to win the women's 100 in a personal-best (though wind-aided) 11.10 seconds at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Lake Park graduate Scott Filip, a freshman at Rice, placed 10th in the men's decathlon.
Also on campus Saturday, at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swimming Center, Arizona junior Kevin Cordes of Neuqua Valley set his 11th record in the past two seasons, NCAA.com's Denise Maloof reported. Cordes won the 200 breaststroke in an American-record time of 1 minute, 48.66 seconds. The previous day Cordes set NCAA, American, U.S. Open and meet records in the 100 breast, at 50.04 seconds -- which broke his own record of 50.55 set earlier that day in a preliminary heat.
Also Saturday in Austin, at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill off Sixth Street, a record may have been set in the category of largest chicken-fried steak consumed in one sitting.
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