Aaron Gouge, former Movin’ Mav and 2009 kinesiology graduate from The University of Texas at Arlington, will revisit his old wheelchair basketball courts June 1-2 and June 21-25 for two tournaments against some of the world’s best competition.
Of course, this won’t be his first return visit to UTA. He mentors current Movin’ Mavs, talking to them about game strategy, opponents’ tendencies and how to cope with life’s challenges.
“UTA has always been a huge part of my life because of the time I spent here,” Gouge said. “I want to see these guys get as much out of it as I did.”
The first tournament is the DK3 Tournament, a 3-on-3 national wheelchair basketball tournament named after Dave Kiley a National Wheelchair Basketball hall of famer and former U.S. Paralympian. Teams are sorted based on classification, skill level and experience. The round robin format guarantees each team five games. It will be in the Maverick Activities Center’s main gym.
In addition to Gouge, several other former and current UTA Movin’ Mavs will play.
“Playing 3-on-3 is a faster game. It’s half court and very fast,” Gouge said. “There will be a lot of Team USA players here for that one. It’s different in that you sign up and they assign you teams. You’re playing with people you’ve never played with before and that makes it fun.”
The second tournament is with the USA Senior Men’s National Team versus national teams from Japan and Spain. UTA’s team will play in for a couple of the games at the MAC and the physical education building.
Gouge said the second tournament will help prepare many of the athletes for participation in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, later this summer and for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. In the 2016 Paralympics, UTA placed three players on the men’s team and two on the women’s team.
Gouge has lived with a bone deficiency all his life. He discovered wheelchair basketball when he was 11. Now at 33, he has been a Team USA player for the past six years.
It wasn’t an easy road there, though.
“There is a lot of pressure every year but it keeps you working hard,” Gouge said. “It’s never a guarantee, though.”
One of the UTA alumni joining Gouge will be William Hernandez, founder of PER4MAX in Grand Prairie, a maker of high-performance sports wheelchairs. After contracting polio, he began playing wheelchair basketball in junior high and became the first disabled student in the United States to earn a full athletic scholarship, leading UTA to three national titles. He graduated with a UTA mechanical engineering degree before founding PER4MAX. Gouge does quality control at PER4MAX.
In 2014, Hernandez received the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities’ Lex Frieden Employment Award.
“Wheelchair basketball opened so many doors for me,” Hernandez says. “I owe my career, personal, and professional successes to the opportunities UTA provided.”
Doug Garner, coach of the Movin’ Mavs, is looking forward to seeing all the returning players at the two tournaments.
“It does our current Movin’ Mavs players so much good to see what success looks like,” Garner said. “It also helps them know what kind of player they have to face on the world stage.”
See a video of Aaron Gouge here.