Hummer on the double national champions | Evening Star
ARLINGTON, Texas – “It’s been a ride.”
It’s unlikely anyone will argue with AJ Hummer after hearing about his final weeks playing wheelchair basketball.
Hummer and the rest of the USA U23 team traveled to Mexico for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation Zonal Championships and finished in the top two to earn a spot at the World Championships.
Then it was back to Texas-Arlington, where Hummer and Mavericks — aka the “Movin’ Mavs” — repeated as national champions, beating arch-nemesis Alabama as they held the tournament.
“It was cool that this was my first experience in the United States,” Hummer said. “Playing for Team USA at the developmental level and then coming back here and winning the college championship at UTA, you can’t write a better story than that.
“It was special. This one meant more than last year, and last year was quite special, being my first national championship.
Hummer, from Waterloo, is the son of Jim Hummer and grandson of Dale Hummer, both former DeKalb football coaches. He’s happy to take a well-deserved deep breath after his own version of March Madness.
He is in his fourth year at Texas-Arlington as a specialist in marketing and business management. He’ll be back for a year to complete his degree and one more year of basketball, though he’s eligible for two more with the extra year given to athletes because of COVID.
“I’m coming back for one more season and I hope to do the same again,” he said.
His most recent odyssey began with the IWBF tournament in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where matches were played away.
“They had a blanket on it, but we’re playing outside in Mexico where it’s pretty hot,” AJ Hummer said.
“The last match was canceled due to rain. There was water everywhere on the pitch. As we were first in the tournament all the way, we technically ended up winning. Both teams in the championship game (the United States and Brazil) qualified for the (world) championships. »
This tournament will take place in September in Phuket, Thailand. It was originally scheduled for Chiba, Japan in June, but was changed due to COVID concerns in Japan.
Then he was back home to fight for the college title. UTA won the title a year ago by beating host Alabama. The Mavs beat the Crimson Tide in the teams’ first two meetings this year before Alabama won the third.
“You know they were coming for our necks. To be able to beat them again was really cool,” Hummer said.
In the semi-finals, UTA came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Movin’ Mavs were also down double digits in the first half against Alabama.
“Just getting into the championship was quite difficult,” he said. “It gave us all the confidence in the world. We’re down 17 and we come back and beat them. We don’t worry about anything in the league game.
Hummer said he started playing wheelchair basketball at age 8 at Turnstone in Fort Wayne. He played for a team in Indianapolis during his last two years of high school before signing with Texas-Arlington.
Wheelchair basketball is not that different.
“It’s basketball at the end of the day. Our chairs are considered part of our body,” Hummer said. “All the same rules pretty much apply. There is no (violation for) double dribble, just a minor detail.
“Loading, blocking, different fouls that you would see in able-bodied play, you see in wheelchair play.”
The composition of a wheelchair team is broken down into different ability levels, which are assigned point values, with a 1.0 being the most disabled player and a 4.5 being the least disabled. A team is allowed 14 points in total on the field.
“A 1.0 would be someone who is paralyzed from the navel down,” Hummer explained. “They don’t have that trunk control. A 4.5 would be like a single below the knee amputee.
“I’m right there in the middle, a 3.0. Because of my (cerebral palsy), I can’t turn as well as some people, but I can move back and forth. You’re trying to find the top five guys who will work in this system without going over 14 points. That’s the biggest difference.
Selected for the national under-23 team by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in December, Hummer dreams of representing the United States at the Olympics, but knows it’s a long process. First comes a very competitive world championship tournament in the fall.
“Europe is full of talent,” he said. “We really have to train hard if we want to beat any of these teams. The rest of the world has caught up with the United States. We can do that, but we’ll all have to join and train.
“The senior men’s team has always been the goal. It’s just one more step. To be part of the team and win a gold medal in 2024 (in Paris) would be incredible.
Hummer realizes that players in this program have been participating for several years and that it has been a long road for the United States to win gold in Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020.
“All the guys that have been on the team for years that I look up to, they’ve recently started to have success. A bunch of these guys have been on the team for years and years. I try to keep that in mind and enjoy the journey.
“It’s tough. You’re trying to make a national team and win a medal for your country. It won’t happen overnight.”
Wheelchair basketball is like most sports, in which athletes form a lifelong bond, even though they sometimes fight and argue like family.
“That’s the great thing about being a fraternity. All this fighting and bickering, there is a completely opposite side. They are your best friends. You’ll have those friendships your whole life, long after that championship and long after you’ve graduated from college.
“That’s what made the victory even more special. You won with your brothers. My current brother, Isaac, is part of the team (he was injured and unable to play, but he was a coach). You couldn’t write a better story. Winning as a family there is hard to put into words.
Hummer is grateful for the support he receives.
“I thank all my family and friends, everyone back home for supporting me,” he said. “I just hope to make everyone proud at home. Without them and without my faith, I would not be here. It means the world to me, people support me.