Special Olympics basketball team pumped about tournament success
JANESVILLE It’s March Madness and the frenzy has the Swishers in its clutches.
Janesville’s Special Olympics basketball team must win twice in Pleasant Prairie on Saturday, March 23, to earn a berth in the Special Olympics State Indoor Sports Tournament on April 6 at UW-Oshkosh.
A veteran crew of 10 players has been on the tournament trail since last month, posting victories in Fort Atkinson and Wilmot.
“We’re pretty pumped up,” said coach Lisa Buchanan, who guides the 10-member team along with co-coach Jenny Krajeck and assistant Al Hulick. “It’s the real deal, and it’s awesome.’’
Program volunteers include the Lipker family—Scott and Jill and children Lauren and Troy—and Randy Carpenter.
The Swishers are: Teddy Collins, Terry Timmerman, Bob Hart, John Kalas, Josh Hill, Norma Ryan, Allan Hanson, Brad Evans, Jeff Miller and Joey Swanson. The team ranges in age from 16 years old to 61.
“We’ve had mostly the same guys for the last five years,” Buchanan said. “We move them up to A from B skills.’’
“It’s fun,” said Hanson, who at 61 is the oldest player on the team. “I play basketball, and I like sports.’’
Collins and Timmerman are nicknamed the team’s “Twin Towers.” Collins was the MVP of the Fort Atkinson tournament in 2011.
“We try hard,” Collins said. “We try to do our best.’’
Miller has confidence his teammates can lead the Swishers to state and win the state title.
“Teddy and those guys are pretty good,” Miller said. “I’m pretty confident.’’
The Janesville team won the state gold medal in 2009, only a year after the program was organized.
“We started because a group of athletes really wanted to play team (basketball),” said Buchanan, who played at Parker High for Tom Klawitter. “We started doing (fundamental) skills, and now we’ve grown into two teams.’’
Buchanan said the program has become so popular that she has had to make cuts.
“I’m always the bad guy,” Buchanan said about trimming the rosters, which are limited to 22 players for two teams.
Janesville’s second team, the Jets, includes: Travis Bauer, Brooklyn Kolff, Jimmy Kohl, David Mendryski, Jimmy Phippi, Patrick McDaniels, LaVonne Kettle, Michael Ewers, Mila Holcombe, LaTasha Swan, Robyn Posorske and Mary Wegert.
The players started practice in December, working on fundamentals and scrimmaging an hour per week at the Janesville Boys and Girls Club. The practices are lessons on the game.
“We always hit the fundamentals,” Buchanan said. “We focus on dribbling and rebounding.’’
Once the basics get covered, the team works on game situations.
“We’re teaching them to learn and execute plays,” Buchanan said. “It’s hard to get them to focus on plays.”
What works in practice sometimes doesn’t carry over in the heat of the battle.
“When they get down by a couple of points, they want to put up 3s,” Buchanan said.
Win or lose, Buchanan said the primary goal is for all the players to enjoy what they do.
“The whole model is to have fun,” Buchanan said.
But winning a second gold medal in five years would add to the enjoyment.
“We’re going back for the glory,” Buchanan said with a wide smile.
Ken Veloskey is a sportswriter for The Gazette.