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Kevin Grant is on a fast break during basketball practice. With a quick stop and then a rapid acceleration, Grant easily maneuvers his wheelchair by the only defender between him and the basket. Then comes the magic. With his teammate speeding down court toward the hoop, Grant flips the ball behind his back which lands perfectly in his "mates" hands for an easy shot.
"That's my signature move," says Grant with a huge smile. "I set the defender up. He thinks I'm going to shoot, then I just put it behind my back."
Every Saturday during the season, Grant and his teammates on "the Rollin' Knicks" push their limits for close to four hours at the Graham Windham Center at 133rd Street and Broadway. Grant, 24, a shooting guard averaged over 16 points a game during the team's tough 40-game schedule. Twice the long-range shooter scored over 30 points in a contest. His breakout season didn't go unnoticed. He was selected for the first time as a league all-star and was flown out to Oakland, Calif. for an all-expenses-paid trip by the team's sponsor, the New York Knicks. In Oakland, Grant and other wheelchair basketball players who participate in the NBA's sponsored league, played their all-star game during the NBA's all-star weekend in February.
"Every year I've seen improvement in his game," says Dave Snowden, the Rollin' Knicks captain and the manager of Disabled Services at Madison Square Garden. "He's a good outside shooter, he has speed, great hands, and he really knows the game."
Injured in a car accident at the age of 17, Grant has worked to adapt. He is almost totally self-sufficient now. He lives alone and travels around the city by himself, either by bus or cab. And he has a lot of traveling to do. Studying adaptive physical education at Brooklyn College, Grant has to commute regularly from his apartment in downtown Manhattan. Only five credits shy of graduation, Grant is excited to finally begin his career full time.
"It's important for me to work with kids," says Grant, who now teaches phys-ed part-time for children with learning disabilities. "I want to show kids that you can achieve regardless of the cards that were dealt to you."
Grant was always athletic, although he didn't specialize in any sports in high school. Now it's a different story for the second year Rollin' Knick. He is fascinated by basketball and wants to learn as much as he can about the game. He practices his skills for hours at a time and hopes to be selected as a member of the 2004 United States Para Olympic Team.
"I've found my niche," says Grant, who has traveled extensively around the country playing in various tourneys. "It's something I can do really well if I work at it."
His passion for basketball knows no limits. "If I'm in that gym I play hard," says Grant. "I don't like to lose."
And make that in life as well.
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