The Iowa Grizzlies are building this generation of wheelchair basketball players - and the next one

Published: Oct. 15, 2022 at 11:17 PM CDT
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CORALLVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Jayden Stafford impressed as a 12-year-old wheelchair basketball player, but now as at 16 he’s well past learning the game, he’s one of the best.

“I say I’ve improved a lot mentally and physically on the court,” Stafford said. “I’ve wanted to win more and I’ve put more work even behind the scenes to wanting to do what I’m doing today.”

He remembers being the young kid, now he’s the leader.

“I wanna show them what I’ve learned at that age so that way they’re better for their future selves.”

Jayden says he’s got a great group of young players behind him, including 11-year-old Jonah Becker.

“It’s kind of hard for us to keep up with everyone else because everyone else is faster,” Jonah said. “You just learn, you just keep practicing and practicing.”

“(Jonah is an) awesome ball player. (He) works his butt off in practice,” Jayden said. “He’s going up and down the court just making me look silly.”

Jonah knows it’s tough to hang with the big kids, but he’s been impressing them - along with his coaches - with his work ethic.

“Jonah is great he brings great energy to the floor every single time always brings 100% effort,” said Grizzlies head coach Derrick Bisnett.

Bisnett says balancing healthy competition with healthy learning is the hardest part of his job. But he says it’s easier when he has kids, young and old, willing to help each other.

“We have a great set of older kids, of leaders for our younger ones, showing them what competitiveness is and how to be a good competition. Not only what it means to be a good winner but also what it means to be a good loser,” he said. “And every now and then when our older kids need a little bit of help our younger kids are there to keep them in check.