Team USA have been among the top powerhouses in junior men’s wheelchair basketball for the past twenty years, having enjoyed great success at four of the past five U23 World Championships.
They enter the 2017 Men’s U23 World Championship boasting podium finishes in all of their previous appearances at the event, including back-to-back gold medals in 2005 and 2009. After a dominant performance at the 2017 Americas Cup qualification tournament, the American team will be looking for a return to the podium after they were absent from the U23 World Championships in 2013.
We discovered a little bit more about Team USA and key player Fabian Romo with a quick Q & A.
Name: Fabian Romo
Age: 20 years old
From: Missouri City, Texas, USA
Class : 4.0
Club: The University of Texas Arlington Movin’ Mavs
How long have you been playing wheelchair basketball?
This will be my 7th year of playing wheelchair basketball. I first started playing wheelchair basketball after finding out that the sport first existed during the middle of my freshman year of high school.
How do you feel about representing your country at the U23 World Championships?
Representing Team USA at the U23 World Championships is something that I could have never imagined in a million years. It is such an honour and blessing to be in the position that I am in. We are not only competing in a basketball tournament, but this tournament shows who is the best in the world, and I want to show that Team USA is the best team in the world and go home with a gold medal.
I put emphasis on the fact that I am extremely blessed to be representing USA because of how I came to play wheelchair basketball and how much I have grown and dedicated myself to the game. To be on this team means not only a lot to myself personally, but to my parents and family who have always supported me from the very start of my career and I am lucky enough to have such caring parents that they will be driving to Toronto to see the team play.
How has the team been preparing for the U23 World Championships?
Though the team cannot get together to practice every day due to us living in different states, we had a training camp recently in which we put the final touches to the team. The team has improved tremendously since we were first selected and played our first tournament together at the Americas qualifiers in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Aside from that, each of us individually works on our basketball skills such as chair skills, shooting, conditioning, power back in our respective homes and programmes and play to the highest performance we can. Each of us is dedicated and committed to this team and that only improves our chances of winning the gold medal.
How important is it to participate at the U23 World Championships as a young player?
I think it is important to participate as a young player because it gives us our first sense of international competition and it paves the way to future international competitions. For some of us, it will be our first major international experience in the World Championships. It exposes us young players to a higher level of competition from what we’re used to back home, and it gives us a chance to win our first gold medal. Another reason why it is important is because if and when tryouts for the next Paralympic team come, we will have the experience and knowledge of what it’ll take to compete against other countries and be familiar with their style of play.
What are your teams aims for this Championship?
I think the aim for the team is of course bringing back a gold medal back to the United States. Another thing we focus on as a team is to simply remember to have fun. It is our favourite sport to play and our passion is to just go out and compete at a high level and win. It makes it all worth it and when we have fun, playing becomes so much easier for us.
How do you assess the other teams?
Assessing the teams can be pretty difficult especially as we have never played against them before or seen them play either. That is where our coach and coaching staff help the players out and they design a game plan against the other teams. We look at results from other tournaments where those teams have competed in and we analyse stats and use this to our advantage. Trying to find some type of game clips also helps out with knowing specific threats on the opposing teams.
What are you most looking forward to about taking part in the U23 World Championships?
The thing that I am most looking forward to about going to the U23 World Championships is that it will be my first major international tournament. I never thought that I would have this opportunity, let alone be on Team USA! I cannot wait to be there!