By SHAQ DAVIS
Pima Community College student Jose Maravilla was born with arthrogryposis, a rare disability characterized by stiff joints and abnormally developed muscles.
Although he uses a wheelchair, Maravilla hasn’t let his condition stop him from enjoying the game of basketball.
Maravilla, 21, grew up in Long Beach, California, and discovered basketball when he was 8.
“It was good because I got into sports really young, and I’ve been playing wheelchair basketball since then,” he said.
Basketball has provided him with opportunities to travel across the country, including Chicago, Texas, Washington, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and California.
Of all the places he has visited, Philadelphia stands out.
“If it wasn’t for basketball, I probably would have never been near there,” Maravilla said. “I got to meet the Philadelphia Eagles and Donovan McNabb.”
He also seized the chance to appear on the Disney channel show, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”
Maravilla currently plays shooting guard for the University of Arizona Adaptive Athletics basketball team, competing nationally.
Teammate Jose Adriano applauds Maravilla’s character on the court.
“He is very vocal, shows great leadership and is very good at the defensive end,” Adriano said.
The wheelchair league classifies players to level the competition, using range of mobility as one gauge. Players also need medical clearance to compete.
The top 16 teams compete in a national tournament.
“It’s sort of our March Madness, you play until you lose,” Maravilla said.
This year the championship was held in Kentucky. The UA team finished in seventh place, three spots off its fourth-place finish in 2013.
Maravilla hopes the team will play better and progress deeper into the national tournament next year, and maybe even go undefeated.
His training includes weight lifting, shooting drills and conditioning exercises.
He said the upper body is the focus in the weight room and is extremely important on the court.
One of the hardest drills is pushing up difficult inclines.
“Our coach makes us go up steep hills,” Maravilla said. “It’s hot and if you let go of the wheel you’re going to go all the way to the bottom.”
Maravilla feels fortunate that he has not faced harsh discrimination and lives in a nation that is wheelchair accessible.
“We have acts and laws here that people need to respect so we don’t get discriminated against,” he said.
Basketball offers Maravilla a chance to escape the pressures of everyday life.
“It’s where I find peace, my sanctuary; I can get away from everything,” he said. “All that matters is the ball at that moment.”