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Quantico Middle/High School sophomore DJ, 15, plays on the Fairfax Falcons basketball. The team recently won a tournament Jan. 25 in Philadelphia.

Photo by Eve A. Baker

Soph is paralympic basketball star

23 Feb 2015 | Eve A. Baker Marine Corps Base Quantico

During the school day, Quantico Middle/High School sophomore DJ, 15, is a polite, hard-working student who enjoys math, but after school and on weekends, he is a paralympic basketball standout. Born with spina bifida, the most common disabling birth defect in the United States, according to the Spina Bifida Association, he was not expected to ever be able to walk on his own. However, “he proved them all wrong,” said his father, Master Gunnery Sgt. Dedric Foreman, the aviation supply chief for the Executive Flight Detachment.

DJ began walking on his own as a toddler and started playing basketball at age seven. Though in elementary school he started requiring the aid of crutches, and a wheelchair for longer distances, that did not slow him down, and DJ joined a wheelchair basketball league in San Diego, California.

Opportunities for paralympic sports were slimmer in the vicinity of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Foreman’s next duty station, but DJ quickly found a new team when his father was transferred to Quantico — the Fairfax Falcons.

According to the team website, individuals with spina bifida, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or injury affecting the lower extremities of the body under the age of 22, who have not graduated high school, are eligible to play. Though the athletes compete in wheelchairs for most sports, not all athletes use wheelchairs full-time outside of sports.

DJ said the players come from all over the northern Virginia area, and they travel to tournaments around the eastern US. He has played in tournaments in Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and Richmond. His team recently qualified for a national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, to be held in April.

Eric Rode and his wife Lisa have coached the team as volunteers for the last five years and have worked with DJ for about one year. Rode said DJ is a great player who works incredibly hard and is always a good sportsman; he is frequently the first person to line up after the game to shake hands with the members of the opposing team. Rode said DJ plays on the varsity team, which practices and competes on a regulation basketball court with the standard 10-foot-high baskets and plays by college basketball rules. What is significant about the wheelchair athletes, Rode said, is that they have to use strictly their upper bodies to make the shots and have to work from a lower, seated position, whereas fully able-bodied basketball players shoot from standing height and can use their legs to push off the ground for jump shots.

DJ said the team does more than just play basketball together; outside of the regular season, they play hockey and football, go fishing, and put on carwash fundraisers. He enjoys going to the practices and games and just hanging out with the other players when time allows.

Though he is definitely interested in college and majoring in criminal justice, DJ is unsure of where he wants to go just yet. He harbors dreams of playing in the Paralympic Games someday but knows he has to work hard to achieve that. Rode said the potential is there and DJ just needs to keep working hard.

DJ had the following words of wisdom for other aspiring young athletes and anyone who may be facing challenges: “Just believe in yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because you can do it if you believe.”

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico