Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball players trying out for 2016 Rio Paralympic Games

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Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Illinois’ Gail Gaeng (3) readies up for a shot during the wheelchair basketball game v. UWW at the ARC on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Illinois won 50-42.

By Ryan Wilson

The U.S. National women’s wheelchair basketball team is holding its tryouts for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and Illinois is well-represented.

Nearly a third of all the players are on the Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team. Representing the Illini in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend are Megan Blunk, Kaitlyn Eaton, Gail Gaeng, Shelby Gruss and Kendra Zeman.

The players, joined by 13 other competitors, will be evaluated and play in friendly competitions from Monday to Wednesday There is a six-member selection staff, which includes Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball coach Stephanie Wheeler. Wheeler is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist and the head coach of the U.S. team.

The final 12-player team will be finalized in June — two months prior to the Rio Paralympic Games, which start Sept. 7.

The U.S. qualified for the Rio Paralympic games after winning the 2015 Parapan Games and defeating its opponents by 55 points per game. The team finished fourth in the 2013 London Paralympics and won gold in the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Paralympics.

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