UA plays by seat of pants

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dave Herr-Cardillo, coach of the Arizona wheelchair basketball team, has a theory.

He says history has shown that every year the Arizona men's basketball team has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it has beaten the wheelchair team that same year. On the other hand, years that the team goes to the Final Four have resulted in wheelchair wins because the basketball team is usually "exhausted". In fact, he has the series record to back it up.

So does Herr-Cardillo think the team throws the Tournament games on purpose, just to get an edge? Well, his theory won't touch that.

The Wildcats and the Wildchairs tip-off at 7 tonight at McKale Center in the Desert Diamond Arizona Hoop Finale, an event benefiting the university's Center for Disability Related Resources. Formerly known as "Lame for a Game," it features the basketball team in wheelchairs, and since this year is one of those that featured a first-round tournament exit, Herr-Cardillo is concerned.

"When they go out in the first round, historically speaking, those are the years that they've beaten us, because they're sort of pissed off and ready to get back at somebody," he said. "Unfortunately, we're the team that they have the last shot at."

The break gave Wildcat junior forward Reggie Geary a chance to work on some of his wheelchair moves, something that isn't any easier for him even though this will be his third game.

"I've become a veteran in this chair," Geary said. "I've established a couple one-on-one moves, I'm going to be really tough to contain this year.

"I've got a head and shoulder fake, I've got a little hesitation move. I don't want to show all my moves right now. I've got a couple secret moves. I'm saving it for the crowd."

Herr-Cardillo said Geary isn't the only one who has a secret game plan.

"We always have something," he said. "We can't let the press know, because we're afraid of leaks and it might get back to the 'Cats and then they may not show up to the game. We definitely have a lot of tricks that we're going to pull out."

Although the game is generally for fun, there are some rules. Herr-Cardillo explained that players must dribble once for every two pushes on the chairs' hand rims. Players also get four seconds in the key instead of three.

Then there are the special rules, designed to make the game more fun and, for the Wildchairs, more competitive. The Wildcats get an extra point for every type of shot. For example, made free throws are two points each, field goals three and three-pointers turn into four-pointers. Also, the Wildcats get five "frustration slam dunks," when a player can stand up and dunk the ball without a penalty.

But Herr-Cardillo said it's not as easy as jumping up and throwing it down.

"When you're in the chair, you're not using your legs, per se, and your legs start to tighten up," he said. "So when a freshman gets out and thinks he's going to do a slam dunk and he's playing in his first wheelchair game, he goes to make his leap and he has no legs. That's when they usually biff a few of those. I don't remember the last time they scored on all five of their slam dunks."

Wildcat Jarvis Kelley, a freshman in last year's game, knew the feeling.

"I tried it three times," Kelley said. "I missed all three of them."

Herr-Cardillo said another way he makes sure the Wildcats have an advantage is by calling a "Handicap-the-Handicapped Timeout."

"If we pull ahead by too much I pull my guys over and do something to them, usually the football helmets, the sunglasses, wigs, paper bags or whatever," he said. "They go out for a while and try and play with the extra handicap and see how that works. Then that lets the 'Cats try and catch up."

Even though his team does have an advantage, Geary said it's always tough on the freshmen.

"They don't know what to expect," Geary said. "They're going into this completely blind. They don't understand what kind of whuppin' we're about to get. But it's all fun and games. Everybody has a good time with it."

Tickets are $5 for reserved seats, $3 general admission.

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