The 3rd annual Duel is in the books. The two-day event, presented by Bank of America, featured adaptive sports including wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, stand-up basketball, wheelchair lacrosse, and power soccer.
This year’s event differed from past years as Ability360 expanded the number of days for the event and increased the size of the playing field.
“Last year we were only doing this for one day and we limited the amount of teams by quite a bit as a result,” Ability360 General Manager Gus LaZear said.
Stand-up amputee basketball was the new sport added to the event. The game itself has only just begun to evolve.
Ability360 hosted its first stand-up basketball tournament in June. Six teams came to play. Duel in the Desert featured four teams and players from across the U.S. including Utah, Colorado, New York, and California.
The AMP1 Blue team won the championship round of the tournament for stand-up basketball.
Athlete Nick Pryor was on the planning committee for the event and also plays the sport. He said the key to the game is adapting to the sport itself.
“A lot of these guys are recent amputees so it’s hard for them to move, but for me I’ve had mine since I was four, so it’s pretty natural for me,” Pryor said. “For the other guys, I think it’s just getting that practice in and trying to get better.”
Wheelchair basketball is one of the staple sports that has been consistently offered at Duel in the Desert.
Saturday’s games started off with a match between the Phoenix Mercury and University of Arizona women’s team. Phoenix notched its first win of the day.
“It’s really cool there’s multiple sports here where we can see each other play and the public can come out and see the variety of adaptive sports that are out there,” Mercury head coach Loraine Gonzales said.
Gonzales has played wheelchair basketball since 2002. Aside from playing in the Mercury and Phoenix Suns games, Gonzales also coaches the wheelchair basketball team at ASU.
The ASU wheelchair basketball team is in its inaugural season and is comprised solely of students who attend the university. The community got its first look at the team during Duel in the Desert.
On Saturday, the team played the U of A Men’s team. Although the team lost to the Wildcats 77-53, the scrimmage gave the team it’s first look at how it’s shaping up against competition.
“They’re a really good team,” ASU player Jeremy Wagner said. “It puts us in a good field to see where we stand and how much further we need to get to where we need to be.”
Wagner picked up the sport at Ability360 in January. Additionally, Wagner later heard that ASU was starting a team and he wanted to play with them as well.
“It’s a different team sport as far as other things that are available,” Wagner said.
Additionally, the event featured a wheelchair lacrosse demo that invited spectators to come to the court to give the new sport a shot.
Aside from stand-up basketball, wheelchair lacrosse has been the newest addition to the gym’s recreation list.
Wheelchair lacrosse player Jason Graber said the team first hosted a clinic in June. The team currently practices on Tuesday nights but will move to two nights once the season begins in April.
Although wheelchair lacrosse didn’t play a game in the tournament, Graber said he hopes to bring in a team to have a scrimmage in next year’s Duel.
Another large draw to the tournament was wheelchair rugby. Commonly referred to as murder ball, the biggest match of the day was the Ability360 Heat versus the Tucson Renegades.
“It’s gotten bigger and better every year,” wheelchair rugby player Scott Hogsett said. “I’m excited to see what it does next year. We have a lot of good athletes here. It’s a good way to kick off the season for rugby.”
The Heat grabbed a 53-45 win in the match against the Renegades.
“Tucson and Phoenix are the two best teams in the country, so to go of and play each other right away is a good way to measure where we’re at,” Hogsett said.
Arizona State University, Sports Journalism
Kaci is a sophomore at Arizona State University, majoring in Sports Journalism. She co-hosts Double X Sports, a talk show about women’s sports on the college radio station, Blaze Radio. After college she aims to work as an on field sports broadcaster. Native to Arizona, she enjoys hiking, watching sports, and going to concerts.