By Jeremy Hoeck
Dylan Fischbach has checked off yet another prestigious highlight on his athletic resume.
Fischbach, a graduate this spring from Vermillion High School who lost his right leg after a bout with cancer before his third birthday, was one of 12 players selected for the 2013 USA Men’s Under-23 Wheelchair Basketball Team on Saturday, June 15.
Fischbach, 18, originally thought he was going to get cut from the team, he said, based on his shooting performance in scrimmages during a 5-day training camp last week in Birmingham, AL. Instead, he was informed of the good news.
“When they brought me in to their little cottage, they started off with everything I didn’t do well,” he said Monday. “It got me really nervous. But our coach looked at me and said, ‘Let me put you out of your misery, you’re going to Turkey.’
“It was a big feeling of relief.”
Fischbach, the second-youngest player on the team, will leave in late August for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) U23 World Championships, set for Sept. 5-15 in Adana, Turkey.
The roster was selected after two rounds of tryouts. The first, held in May at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, narrowed the list from 40 players down to 18. In Alabama, that number was trimmed to 12 – the remaining six will serve as alternates.
To have Fischbach join an older team makes his selection even more impressive, according to his father, Bruce, who will serve as the team’s athletic trainer.
“It’s essentially a college team,” Bruce said. “He’s going against kids that are going to be college seniors. You go into something like that expecting to see talented players, but I was blown away.
“It more than exceeded what I expected.”
Though he is rather young for the team, Dylan Fischbach is no stranger to high-level competition. He led Team USA to a gold medal at the Australian Youth Paralympic Games in 2009. He later won two national championships with the Nebraska Red Dawgs, followed by a second-place finish earlier this year.
At the Alabama training camp, however, Dylan was faced with international rules: a 24-second shot clock and an 8-second backcourt rule, not to mention accelerated play.
“It’s definitely a quicker pace than the high school game, the defense has quicker hands and everyone is bigger,” he said. “It’s something we’ll adjust to.”
The players also had to adjust to 3-a-day practices on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Bruce said. At the training camp, Dylan was also faced with international rules: a 24-second shot clock and an 8-second backcourt rule, not to mention accelerated play.
Speed wasn’t the only noticeable difference, Dylan said, the physicality was a change. One other player eventually selected, Kris Shannon from Sugarland, TX, stands 6-feet-7 out of his wheelchair and bench-pressed between 270-280 pounds at last week’s tests, Dylan said.
The other members of the U23 team, coached by Lew Shaver, include: Jacob Tyree (Salem, VA), John Boie (Milton, WI), Robert Gordon (St. Petersburg, FL), Ryan Neiswender (Lebanon, PA), Derrick Bisnett (Bismarck, ND), Connor Downes (Rosemount, MN), Matt Golembeski (San Diego, CA), Corey Rossi (Canton, MI), Jorge Sanchez (Doublin, CA) and Jacob Williams (Milwaukee, WI).
With violent protests taking place in Turkey over the past few weeks, there is naturally a concern about safety of athletes headed over there in the fall, Dylan said.
“We’re a little worried about what’s going on over there, but they’ll take care of us,” he said. “Stuff like that will help us be comfortable; getting away from all the fighting and stuff.”
For Fischbach himself, he said all his athletic exploits over the years are still a little surreal.
“It’s all been a shock,” he said. “Growing up, I didn’t think I could be an athlete, but hopefully this shows people that you can compete at a high level.”
Through all his success, Fischbach has tried to remain level-headed.
“It’s humbling,” he said. “I was raised well; I definitely have that on my side. I’ve had great teammates and players all these years.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck