Local parent advocates for wheelchair basketball team in Tri-Cities

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Hoops Unite showcased a wheelchair basketball tournament in Tri-Cities over the weekend.

The event brought five teams from across the Pacific Northwest. Organizers say that the event was to highlight wheelchair basketball, and promote the creation of a team right here in Tri-Cities.

“A lot of people would be surprised about how many people can qualify to play this sport,” said David Grieg, a spokesperson for Parasports Spokane.

Officials estimate that more than 200 athletes locally would qualify to play the sport. If you include the greater Tri-Cities and Yakima, there could be more than 400.

“If they have a disability that impacts their capabilities of playing able-bodied basketball, their probably eligible,” Greig said.

That was the case with David Evjen, the current head wheelchair basketball coach at Eastern Washington University.

“I herniated a disk in my lower bask in 2012, my senior year of high school, and ended up with some nerve damage,” Evjen said. “Walking around campus, one of the guys that was on the wheelchair basketball team approached me and said I could qualify to play.

“It took a couple of practices of getting my butt kicked, and the competitive spirit started kicking in,” Evjen said.

Now, Evjen has nearly 10 years in the sport. He’s spent 5 years playing collegiate wheelchair basketball, and another 2 years on the Colombian National team. Today he coaches, and also plays for Parasport’s D2 team.

Parasports Spokane works with athletes to prep them for more than just recreational sports, they also help athletes get to national teams.

Elizabeth Foch started wheelchair basketball nearly 7 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the sport.

“I did get invited to the [Women’s] 2022 selection camp,” Foch said. “Excitement, it’s kind of just like, I get to learn more new things. And also, I can see more elite athletes, you know, and I get to kid of maybe compete against them and work with them too.”

Seeing success with athletes like this has moved local parent Sara Dennison to advocate for teams in Tri-Cities.

“My son is 15 and as a wheelchair person, he has not been able to play a sport or be a part of things,” Dennison said. “We videotaped him doing a basket and the joy that he had when he made a basket…. is the reason why we do what we do.”

“We have some of the best coaches here,” Dennison said. “We have some of the best programs around here for abled-bodied kids. Why can’t we do them for disabled kids?”

Currently, local athletes that want to play wheelchair basketball have to travel to Seattle or Spokane for practice. Parasport Spokane hopes that changes in the future.

To find out more about playing wheelchair basketball, visit Parasport Spokane here.