LANGLEY – You don’t become one of the top young wheelchair basketball players in Canada purely on talent – something Jack Kosterman has in abundance.
It also takes practice, practice and even more practice.
To wit: Kosterman trains six days a week, three to four hours each day. Asked how many shots he figures that he takes each week, the 16-year-old answered, "thousands."
Shooting a basketball in a seated position can be a challenge, especially for those making the transition from stand-up hoops.
For Kosterman, who started playing the wheelchair game when he was 10 after developing a bone disease that left him with limited hip mobility, it wasn’t as much of an issue.
"I was a chubby little kid when I played stand-up so when I transitioned, I was using all arms anyway," Kosterman said with a chuckle. "And I prefer the angle from being lower, you get more arc on your shot. I shoot better sitting down."
He said 80 per cent of wheelchair basketball is about upper body and core strength.
"A lot of times my hands are off my wheels, I have my hands on the ball, and I’m moving the chair with my legs and with my torso," he said.
Kosterman was introduced to wheelchair basketball by a school occupational therapist, who put him in contact with BC Wheelchair Basketball.
He participated in Bridging the Gap’s Have A Go Day and was hooked. After that, he began attending regional junior practices and soon progressed to the provincial level, representing B.C. at the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax, NS.
A Grade 11 student at Langley Fine Arts School, Kosterman is an accomplished wheelchair basketball player.
He is currently with U23 Team Canada (IWBF), Team BC (Canada Winter Games), and the Seattle Supersonics (US NWBA).
Kosterman now has his sights set on making the 2015 Canadian senior men’s team.
He is one of three players from B.C., and 21 in total, invited to attend a selection camp taking place this week (Dec. 14 to 19) at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in
Scarborough, Ont., home of the Wheelchair Basketball Canada National Academy.
In August, the senior national team will represent Canada on home soil at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, which is the qualification tournament for the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Team Canada is the reigning Paralympic gold medalist from the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"I think I’ve got a good shot. I’ve been working hard," Kosterman said. "They are world-class athletes so no matter what, I’m honoured to be there."
Kosterman is one of two 16-year-old athletes trying out for the team, Liam Hickey from St. John’s, Nfld., being the other.
While he uses a wheelchair solely for basketball, Kosterman qualifies to play because of his hip ailment.
"I stuck to wheelchair basketball. I prefer it, it’s more exciting," Kosterman said. "It’s more physical than stand-up."
The rules between wheelchair and standup basketball are "fairly similar," Kosterman said: "Travelling is different. There is more contact because you have the chair, so you can beat the other guys up a little bit more. Aside from that, it’s the same hoops, same court…" The senior men’s national team went undefeated at the London 2012 Paralympics to capture their third gold medal in four Paralympic Games.
It is the latest accomplishment in a sport dynasty that has placed them on the podium at four consecutive Paralympics and at five of the last six world championships.
ABOUT WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL CANADA
Wheelchair Basketball Canada (Wheelchairbasketball.ca) is the national sports governing body responsible for the organization of the sport in Canada.
It is a non-profit, charitable organization that promotes wheelchair basketball programs and services for all Canadians from grassroots to high performance.
Wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, competitive sport in which Canada is held in high esteem around the world for winning a combined six gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in the last six Paralympic Games.