The Tampa Bay Strong Dogs are one of the best wheelchair basketball teams in the nation. They are currently ranked 8th in the country, and have been to Louisville, Kentucky for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association championship tournament for nine consecutive years.
The Strong Dogs finished 8th in the country this season after their appearance at nationals. They took the eventual champions, the San Diego Wolfpack, down to the wire. They lost by four points to the Wolfpack, but were one of the few teams that were competitive against them. “This team played their hearts out,” said Wayne Bozeman, head coach of the Strong Dogs. “I wouldn’t trade this team… because of the heart they have.”
The team, is led by Bozeman, a Recreation Therapist for the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department. Bozeman became the leader of the team 10.
years ago after inquiries from some injured veterans at the VA Hospital. They are a part of Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, a signature program of the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department.
The team has a total of 26 players, 15 on the division II team that went to nationals, and 11 on the new division III team. Some of the players have spina bifida, and others are amputees or have spinal cord injuries. A few of the players are injured veterans as well. “To me, they are the best basketball players out there, not just our guys, but everybody,” Bozeman said. “It’s not about their disability, it’s about their ability.”
According to Bozeman, the team will start training for next season in about a month. They practice two hours a day, twice a week at the All People’s Life Center on 6105 E. Sligh Ave., Tampa. They held several car washes to raise money for the expenses to attend the tournament, but the players had to pay out of pocket for some of it. They plan on doing more fundraisers next year.
Bozeman would like to thank Hillsborough County and Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay for all that they do for the team and encourages anybody with a lower extremity injury to come and participate.
For more information, you can search for their page, @tbsdofficial on Facebook.