In a groundbreaking move to further inclusivity in the region, this fall St. Clair County Community College
(SC4) became the first community college in the United States to establish its own wheelchair basketball adaptive sports
Adaptive sports, also called parasports, is any sport played by individuals who have a physical or intellectual disability, with the rules and equipment of each particular sport adjusted to fit around particular needs and accommodations. Teaming up with the University of Michigan
(U of M) which introduced its own Adaptive Sports & Fitness program
in 2018, this new initiative aims to break barriers while providing a fun and active outlet for all.
Pete Lacey, Senior Vice President of St. Clair County Community College.
“There is a need for this program, not only in our community, but also across the nation,” says Dr. Pete Lacey, Senior Vice President of SC4. “Individuals who have disabilities that prevent them from participating in sports should have access to the same activities that an able-bodied individual does, so our partnership with the University of Michigan is a key component in making that a reality.”
The wheelchair basketball team welcomes both disabled and able-bodied participants and is open to students and community members alike with priority to SC4 enrolled students.
Gear and equipment used by some of the wheelchair basketball players.
For its inaugural 2023-2024 season, there are six players on SC4’s wheelchair basketball team roster including Avoca resident Mike Millsap. Millsap, 35, is an alum of SC4 and obtained his associate’s degree in 2012.
“After my neck injury back in 2008 there was nothing like this around so it’s really cool that they are offering this program in our community,” Millsap says. “I have an uncle who used to play wheelchair basketball when I was a kid, so he showed me that you can still have fun and live an active life even with a disability.”
As a kid, Millsap says he played a few sports to stay active, but this was his first introduction to playing an adaptive sport.
“I feel this program will provide a number of jobs as well as inspiration to those who have a disability, allowing them/us to be a part of something that isn’t always available to our community,” he says.
Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services at the University of Michigan, poses for a photo during the 3rd annual Wolverine Invitational.
One of the key figures in helping make the new SC4 wheelchair basketball team a reality is Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, the Director of U of M’s Adaptive Sports & Fitness program.
“Our partnership with SC4 began after a visit for something unrelated to adaptive sports. We began to discuss holding our 2nd Wolverine Invitational at the SC4 Fieldhouse which turned out to be a huge success last year, so we decided to come back this year,” Okanlami says. “The staff at SC4 showed huge interest in adaptive sports and wheelchair basketball, so we began working with them to help establish their own wheelchair basketball team.”
“Dr. O” as he is known by colleagues, is not only one of the coaches of the U of M wheelchair basketball team, but he is also an active player on the roster.
“Disability does not mean inability,” Okanlami says. “I had no idea the adaptive sports world existed before I became involved after my injury, so the goal is to spread that awareness to others and offer them something that is not only fun, but provides a sense of community, belonging, and good exercise, encouraging optimal health physically and mentally for those who live with a disability.”
SC4 officially announced its new wheelchair basketball team in May 2023. Throughout the summer, a team of former students, community members, and some SC4 staff was assembled. Fall saw the initiation of team practices, culminating in the inaugural game on Sept. 30, 2023, against Michigan State University
(MSU) at the SC4 Fieldhouse, part of the 3rd annual Wolverine Invitational. Despite a hard-fought battle against MSU, the Skippers experienced a loss in overtime.
Lee Montgomery, National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Hall of Fame Player, poses for a photo before officiating the 3rd annual Wolverine Invitational held at St. Clair County Community College Sept. 28-Oct. 1, 2023.
The Wolverine Invitational saw some prominent people in the adaptive sports world come to support and participate in the event. One of those individuals was Lee Montgomery, a Hall of Fame Player of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) who played for the Grand Rapids Pacers. Montgomery was one of the referees chosen to officiate the games.
“As a person with a disability back in the ‘70s there were no sports readily available that we could be a part of, but today it’s growing,” Montgomery says. “There are now something like ten or twelve different sports that people with a disability can play. What U of M and SC4 are doing here is an amazing event, and I’m proud to be a part of the history of adaptive sports. I can't wait to see where the program goes.”
Jordan Scheidecker, Disability Resources Specialist at St. Clair County Community College (SC4) and Head Coach of the college’s wheelchair basketball team, chats with SC4 President, Kirk Kramer.
In October 2023, the team welcomed Jordan Scheidecker as head coach. With his background as a three-time national championship wheelchair basketball player and coach at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Scheidecker also works as the Disability Resources Specialist at SC4. Currently, Scheidecker is focusing on leading the recruitment and development efforts for the Skippers team in preparation for the 2024-2025 season.
“Being that this is our first attempt at such a major program we are still working on what our schedule will look like and things of that nature,” Lacey says. “We would also like to consider adding other adaptive sports programs in the future, but that has yet to be determined on which sports to include. However, we do plan to continue working with the U of M Adaptive Sports and Fitness program to offer clinics for tennis and rugby. Our goal is to continue providing opportunities for people in our community to learn about and try other adaptive sports.”
For additional details or to inquire about joining SC4's wheelchair basketball team, visit sc4.edu/athletics
or reach out to Scheidecker at email@example.com.