‘We were ready to make history’

Movin Mavs player in wheelchair basketball game

When asked to pinpoint a highlight of the 2019-20 Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball season, Antoine Gray doesn’t hesitate.

“Any time one of our rookies got their first collegiate baskets, we’d all go crazy on the bench,” he said.

The University of Texas at Arlington finished with a 22-1 overall record, going undefeated (14-0) in National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Intercollegiate Division games. Rather than call out high-scoring games or personal moments of glory, the players chose highlights that exemplified the spirit of their close-knit team.

“Every moment the team spent together—whether we were playing, practicing or hanging out—we were more than a team,” Fabian Romo said. “We were a family.”

The Movin’ Mavs have won eight NWBA national championships. Team members felt they were poised to claim a ninth.

“Everybody felt we could be even more dominant at nationals,” Gray said. “We all were putting in extra work. We were ready to make history.”

Then the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States. Before the team had time to process what was happening, the NWBA canceled the tournament, and the Movin’ Mavs’ season came to an abrupt halt.

“Of course, it was the right decision,” coach Doug Garner said. “But it really leaves a hole in the season, especially for our seniors.”

The Lady Movin’ Mavs, too, struggled with the unexpected and sudden end to the season. The team was second in their division going into nationals—a huge accomplishment for a team in a transition year after graduating several seniors in 2019.

“Everyone had counted us out for the season because we lost so many players,” said Darlene Hunter, a public health graduate student. “But we worked really hard this season and were peaking right when we needed to. The team was really focused and ready to give it all we had to bring a championship back to UTA.”

Not having the opportunity to do that has left the women’s team in the same place as the men’s team: trying to find a sense of closure on a season destined for greatness.

“While this season didn’t finish as we had hoped, I still have a lot to be grateful for,” Hunter said. “We missed out on a three-day tournament, but we made a lifetime of memories.”

From his home back in Australia, where he is self-isolating with his father, Clarence McCarthy-Grogan is busy with online class assignments, papers and exams—and finding peace with the way the season came to an end.

“It was all tough to comprehend, mostly because it all happened so quickly,” he said. “We can only focus on what we can control. One of the things that COVID-19 can’t touch is how much work we put into the season.”

Gray, who is working to finish his master’s degree in social work this summer, echoed his teammate.

“COVID-19 can’t take away how dominant we were throughout the season,” he said. “It can’t take away our cohesiveness. It can’t take away our unity. And it can’t take away our bond.”

– Written by Amber Scott

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