The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois wheelchair basketball hosts 6 schools for Illinois senior day

Photo courtesy of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball / Facebook

Illinois men’s (12-5) and women’s (9-6) wheelchair basketball are celebrating senior day this weekend. These matches will be both teams’ first and only home games of the season.

Illinois will host six other schools, including Wisconsin-Whitewater, Missouri, Arizona, Texas-Arlington, City University of New York and the reigning national champions: Alabama. 

The Illini are no strangers to success themselves, boasting 15 national championships on the men’s side and 14 national championships on the women’s side. Both teams are looking to add a 30th national championship to the program. 

It has been a while since the Illini have been the last ones standing (10), but a defensive-minded squad under head coach Stephanie Wheeler is looking to make their mark. 

Wheeler leads both teams in the present but has been with the women since 2009. The accolades are vast for Wheeler, who has been a Paralympic gold medalist two times as an athlete and one time as a head coach.

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“It has been really great (to) create the opportunity to bring both teams together and learn from one another,” Wheeler said. 

From a tactical standpoint, it has been working out for both programs, but creating a support system within the program is also important. As Wheeler transitioned to being the head coach of both teams, she was able to learn what each team needed.

“It is all about making sure that my feedback is quality feedback,” Wheeler said. “This has made me work on making sure I touch base on all 22 athletes throughout the week and helping them out.”

Wheeler described herself as a defensive-minded coach, making defense the core anchor of both programs’ identity. Wheeler said that when both programs came together, they spent two months solely on defense. 

“Going into this weekend, consistency is a big thing we are focusing on, as well as making sure we are building are offense as we get closer to March,” Wheeler said. 

Wheeler went on to explain that the defense has opened up opportunities for the team to take advantage of that this weekend. The men’s team likes to get out in transition to capitalize on defensive opportunities, while half-court defense has been a key aspect of the women’s team. Their ability to make reads gives them the advantage of keeping teams under their normal numbers. 

This weekend is Illinois’ first and last home games of the season. Saturday evening will be senior day for Marlee Wagstaff, Mary Wagstaff, Ali Ibanez, Ryan Glatchak, Shawn Sloan and Gabe DenBraber. 

Both of Illinois’ teams will play twice on Friday and Saturday at the ARC. On Friday, the women’s team will go against Alabama at 11:30 a.m. and UTA at 5 p.m. The men tip off at 3 p.m. against UTA and at 7 p.m. against Wisconsin-Whitewater. 

Saturday starts much earlier for both teams, beginning with the women’s team against CUNY at 9:45 a.m., followed by Arizona at 4:45 p.m. The men’s team tips off at 11:30 a.m. against CUNY and at 3 p.m. against Missouri.



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