Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lions players, celebrities participate in wheelchair basketball to help rehab cause

October 7, 2007

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

The players got introduced, but wheeled out to mid-court instead of trotting. There was the sweet sound of swoosh, bank-shots and even technical fouls, but no jump shots. And it was still a basketball game, but there definitely weren’t any losers.

At the Detroit Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan’s 6th Annual Celebrity Wheelchair basketball game, a collection of local TV, sports and radio personalities came together and participated—most for the first time—in a wheelchair basketball game alongside the institute’s wheelchair basketball team, the Detroit Diehards.

The game took place at University of Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall, between the gold-clad Detroit Jam and the black-clad Motor City Rollers. Lions running back Kevin Jones, Jam head coach, who made his comeback from a knee injury later that week, wasn’t the only one ready to return from an injury.

So too was Jimmy Moceri, an 18-year-old former high school basketball star at Macomb Dakota. Moceri was injured in an auto accident on July 23, 2006, that left him paralyzed.

This was Moceri’s first time back on the court since the accident.

”It was my first time in an actual game, it felt great. I had a lot of fun,” a smiling Moceri said afterwards.

He has been practicing on Tuesday nights with the Michigan Thunderbirds Wheelchair Basketball Team.

Asked about how he overcame his injury, Moceri replied, “Accidents happen, that’s why they call them accidents. I had the right attitude the whole time, and I’ve worked hard ever since I got hurt.”

Myreo Dixon, Detroit Diehards co-captain, who participated on the Rollers with Moceri, said he’s been impressed with how quickly he’s picked the game up.

“He is quick and a really smart player, it’s amazing how quickly he has adapted his game to wheelchair basketball,” Dixon said.

A trio of Detroit Lions appeared, Kevin Jones, Mike Furrey, and Fernando Bryant. Former Lions Scott Kowalkowski and NFL Hall of Famer Len Barney also served as honorary coaches.

Detroit Pistons guard Lindsay Hunter coached the Rollers, and didn’t take a seat the entire first half, even resembling his teammate Rasheed Wallace in picking up a good-natured technical foul late in the first half.

The game was close until the end, with Curtis Carter of the Diehards scoring on a breakaway lay-up with 34 seconds left, cutting the Jam lead to two, but the gold squad hung on for a 27-23 victory, although one would argue the only numbers that mattered were the smiles that were so present at Calihan Hall.

“It’s great for us to give back to the community and to definitely be in a situation like this, supporting this type of organization,” said Lions wide receiver Mike Furrey.

“It’s amazing how you can go through life and you always complain about the little things but yet somebody always has it worse than you do,” said Furrey.

“To be in a situation to come out here and they don’t frown or be sad for what they have, they get in the wheelchair and have fun. They’re excited and it’s fun to come out here and watch.”

FM WJLB 97.1 personalities Coco and Foolish provided color commentary during the game, often provoking laughs out of the crowd as the celebrities wheeled and spun around the court.

DMC Director of Marketing and Public Relations Cheryl Angelelli appreciated the support of the local celebrities.

“It’s exciting to see everyone that cares about the athletes and our program and what we’re doing and that’s very rewarding to see, and just knowing the money we’re raising is going towards such a great cause,” stated Angelelli, who, also disabled, is the #1 ranked swimmer in the 200-meter freestyle.

All proceeds go to the DMC Rehabilitation Association of Michigan and their wheelchair sports program. The DMC also sponsors wheelchair tennis clinics and wheelchair water-skiing events.

Also participating in the event were WJLB disc jockeys Dr. Darrius, Bushman and SunShyne.

“We do this every year, being on the radio we don’t work that many hours so I feel like it’s our duty to help out and have a good time. It means a lot to everybody,” said SunShyne.

Her favorite part was scoring on her second free throw, one that was playfully contested by Hunter and the Rollers squad, because the referees allowed SunShyne to shoot halfway between the foul line and basket.

“I’ll always cheat but that’s OK, I’ll always score every year,” she laughed.

“It’s just a lot of fun.”