Clemson Students and Faculty Bring Junior Wheelchair Basketball Tournament to the Upstate

October 1, 2019

Clemson’s Recreational Therapy (RT) Club, led by students in the university’s recreational therapy program, are working with the Clemson Adaptive Sport and Recreation Lab and Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital to help junior wheelchair basketball teams compete in the upstate.

The group raised the money needed to host a competition this weekend in Spartanburg, where you’ll be able to see the top junior wheelchair basketball teams from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama compete in the 2nd Annual Clemson Classic Wheelchair Basketball Tournament at the Upward Star Center (9768 Warren H Abernathy Hwy).

Last year's Rollin' Tigers team.

Last year’s Rollin’ Tigers team. Image credit: Roger C. Peace Rollin’ Tigers

Youth between the ages of 5 to 18 are playing in this two-day southeast regional tournament, which is organized by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and the Rollin’ Tigers, South Carolina’s only junior wheelchair basketball team. The tournament gives participating wheelchair athletes an opportunity to be part of a team and play in a competitive environment.

RT Club President Hannah Wells says that they began thinking about running the tournament three years ago, and have been working towards it ever since.

“The Rollin’ Tigers is the only wheelchair basketball team in the entire state of South Carolina. It’s awesome that we have a local team, but there are only a few tournaments that they can go to each season – and none of them are local,” she says. “This tournament is an awesome opportunity for these athletes to compete on their own turf. Their families and friends can support them without having to overcome the barriers of traveling far and paying high costs associated with traveling.”

The club has played a lead role in planning the tournament with its sponsors, community members and event partners, and is providing around 15 club members to work each day of the event. They raised the money needed to host the event by applying for grants from several Clemson University campus organizations and by using funds raised through a recreational therapy conference they organize every year, including a silent auction designed to specifically generate money for the competition.

Jeff Townsend, the Rollin’ Tigers coach and Lecturer in Clemson’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, says that the tournament wouldn’t be possible without the club’s support.

“Hosting a regional competition requires manpower, community support and money,” he says. “These students were able to provide all three, and as a result, are creating an exciting opportunity for these young athletes to demonstrate and improve their skills in a competitive environment.”

Jasmine Townsend, an assistant professor at Clemson University and tournament director, says that she’s excited about being able to support expanding opportunities for these athletes to compete.

“This tournament gives these athletes an opportunity to a be part of a team and play a competitive sport,” she says. “They’re getting rare access to typical youth sport opportunities that are often available to other athletes in the area.”

Wells and her club members are proud to have played a role in creating opportunity for these athletes. Now, she says, they need people to come to the event and show their support.

“These kids are cute – all kids are – but they’re also competitive athletes,” she says. “Our ultimate goal is to have adaptive sports like this normalized and readily available for people with different disabilities, and for them to be perceived just like any other youth sport.”

And, she adds, the event is free, making it a good way to spend the day as a family.

“Bring your kiddos, your pals, your significant others, and your neighbors and enjoy a free day of watching a super cool sport.”

For more information about the tournament, contact Jeff Townsend at