On a Tuesday night in early April, the region's sole wheelchair basketball team, the Richmond RimRiders, are making some noise during a three-on-three pickup game in a city gym.
Strapped into their "quickie" chairs — made of aluminum or titanium — the men peel around the court, calling for passes or shouting defensive cues to teammates. When the action moves close to the hoop, the players and chairs clash in direct contact. As one player, Stan Corn, moves to shoot, defender Mickey Morin throws his blocking arm high, tipping his chair up on one wheel to extend his reach.
The wheelchair-basketball program is organized by the local nonprofit Sportable, which promotes adaptive sports. In March, the RimRiders capped off their competitive season, which started in October, with a visit to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association's U.S. championships, but they were knocked out of the tournament after only three games.
For now, the RimRiders are an eight-player co-ed team, though they're constantly looking for new recruits.
"You don't have to have a disability that will put you in a chair," explains Matthew Deans, who walks and has a partial spinal-cord injury. However, if an athlete has any disability that prevents them from playing able-bodied basketball, he says, they're eligible to join in.
The sport has its roots in the U.S. Veterans Administration's hospital system; in the late 1940s, disabled World War II vets adapted basketball for the wheelchair to get active and healthy. About half of Richmond's crew are ex-military.
One of those vets, team captain Ike Cook, holds seniority in both age and court time; the 62-year-old has played the game since 1970, about as long as fellow player Jimmy May.
Deans, 27, jokes that because most of his teammates are older, he spent his first two years being called "rookie." That is, until the team's newest player, Jamon Freeman, came along several months ago.