Updating a story from May 2013, Kendra Zeman, an Anoka High School graduate, has reached the pinnacle of wheelchair basketball after being one of 12 players named to represent the United States at the World Championships in Toronto, Canada, June 20-28.
Zeman, a University of Illinois junior, was one of four Illini players named to the team that will be coached by Stephanie Wheeler. Wheeler is a two-time Paralympian, representing the U.S. in Beijing (2008) and Athens (2000).
“I’m really excited and always felt my teammates are family and to be able to share this experience with them is special,” Zeman said after learning about her spot on the team following a tryout camp at the Lakeshore Foundation facility in Birmingham, Ala., in early January.
Zeman was originally invited to take part in the camp in November 2012 before returning for the final round of tryouts.
Team officials notified the players during camp exit interviews. “We went through the things they liked and things I needed to improve on but I was just thrilled to know I made the team,” Zeman said. She is the tallest player on the team at 6 feet, 3 inches.
Wheelchair basketball uses a functional rating system where the five players can’t total more than 14 at any given time and Zeman’s 4.5 classification is the highest rating given, based on how much control she has over her body.
Zeman is not limited to a wheelchair all the time and as a result, she’s still learning how to play at the highest level possible. “I’m just trying to get stronger and improve my chair skills,” she said,
She continues to modify her basketball skills to the wheelchair version, Zeman said. “I have to continue to improve on that as we go into worlds,” she said.
Illinois competed at the same place as the national camp during the Lakeshore’s Pioneer Classic Jan. 10-12. Instead of returning to campus just before the recent winter storm, Zeman and her Illini teammates spent some extra time in Alabama.
“We’ve been stuck in the training center and [Jan. 9] was the first time we could move into the hotel [for the tournament],” she said. “Roads were shutdown in Illinois on the day we were supposed to fly-in so we had no way to get back down to campus, so instead we decided it would be better to stay where we were with people we knew.”
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