BOISE, Idaho — Wheelchair basketball teams from across the west are showcasing their skills on the hardwood in the first City of Trees Invitational in Boise this weekend.
The Gem State Falcons are Idaho's first National Wheelchair Basketball Association team. Their goal is to build athletes' character through basketball, and provide opportunities through highly-competitive sports.
The tournament is being held at the Salvation Army Gymnasium on Saturday and Sunday. The event is using wheelchair basketball to bring awareness to adaptive sports opportunities throughout Idaho and beyond.
The Falcons have played in three regional tournaments so far. But this weekend is their first time with home-court advantage.
"The biggest thing we try to do is get people out and aware of all the adaptive sports that are available," co-founder of the Gem State Falcons Tom Schroeder said.
The Gem State Falcons are Boise's Division 3 NWBA team. The team started competing last October, and was founded by Schroeder and his son Tommy.
The City of Trees Invitation has four teams competing: the Tucson Lobos, Spokane's Team St. Luke's, and the Sacramento Royals.
Wheelchair basketball has a system where players are classified on a points system to give parity to athletes' accessibility levels.
Athletes on the co-ed team range in ability and experience. Some have been in wheelchairs for their whole lives, others were recently injured.
While the Falcons are a new team, not everyone on the roster is a rookie. Tommy Schroeder is the team's head coach and point guard. He's been playing basketball for 35 years.
"This is the first tournament in Boise. We played so far in Sacramento, we played in Spokane, and then we played in Tucson," Tommy Schroeder said. "So, this is our fourth tournament, first time playing here at a tournament in Boise."
The Falcons are partnered with newly-formed Idaho Adaptive Sports to get athletes involved in other activates, including the Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association, Idaho Sled Hockey Association, and Boise Adaptive Snowsport Education. Their goal is to continue to grow a community for adaptive sports in Idaho.
"I love it. I've been playing for 35 years, a lot of guys - they've been playing, but it's their first year in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association," Tommy Schroeder said. "It's just been a lot of fun because we've got a great group. It's just fun to teach them. They're very hard workers, and it's a great group to be around, so it makes this a lot of fun."
The Gem State Falcons were recently featured as Maggie O'Mara's 7's Hero.
The City of Trees Invitational ends on Sunday. The Falcons' first game is at 8 a.m. against Team St. Luke's. Four games will be played at the Salvation Army Gym on Emerald Street. Admission is free.
The Gem State Falcons are accepting donations on their GoFundMe page to continue competing and representing Idaho in the NWBA.
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