The Daily Illini

Three former Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball players qualify for Paralympics

Wheelchair basketball player and Team USA captain Steve Serio (left) as a junior on Illinois' wheelchair basketball team. Serio, Will Waller (not pictured) and Brian Bell (right, as a freshman at Illinois) have qualified for Team USA for the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Also pictured is Tom Smurr, an Illinois freshman at the time.

Wheelchair basketball player and Team USA captain Steve Serio (left) as a junior on Illinois' wheelchair basketball team. Serio, Will Waller (not pictured) and Brian Bell (right, as a freshman at Illinois) have qualified for Team USA for the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Also pictured is Tom Smurr, an Illinois freshman at the time.

By Ryan Wilson

Illinois’ wheelchair basketball program continues to contribute players to Team USA for the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball players Mega Blunk and Gail Gaeng qualified for the U.S. women’s team and now former Illini Will Waller, Steve Serio and Brian Bell have been named to the 16-player men’s team.

The men are joining a team with veteran Paralympians and eight members from the 2014 World Championship. Twenty-six players tried out for the team, as they competed in drills and “intense” practices from Jan. 3-6 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Colorado. An eight-member selection staff evaluated each player.

“We are pleased with the 16 athletes selected and think there is a nice balance between veterans and newcomers,” U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball head coach Ron Lykins said. “Our focus is now turned towards preparing our players to compete in Rio.”

Serio, who captained the 2015 Parapan Am Games team that won gold, will be in his fourth Paralympics, while Waller and Bell are heading to their second and first respectively.

The team will finalize its 12-member team in June after more evaluations and competitions. The 2016 Rio Paralympics will start Sept. 7.

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