Warriors surprise boy with customized basketball wheelchair

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The Golden State Warriors teamed up with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to surprise a local Bay Area boy.

Bay Area Paralympian Jorge Sanchez orchestrated the surprise for Devan Watkins, a youth athlete with paraplegia.

After practice on Wednesday, Steve Kerr and Glenn Robinson presented Watkins with his first-ever customized basketball wheelchair.

“I thought I was just going to watch the Warriors practice,” Watkins said. “So when Coach Kerr and Glenn Robinson came over with a brand new basketball wheelchair and said it was for me, I was very shocked. This piece of equipment and all the tips from Jorge Sanchez are so helpful.”

The 12-year-old is a youth Wheelchair Basketball player from Menlo Park. When he was 10 years old, an MRI revealed he had a massive spinal cord tumor.

After spinal cord surgery at UCSF, he lost the use of his legs and some functionality in his upper body.

After three months in the hospital, Watkins was finally able to go home.

Watkins and his family said it was important that he remained the same active boy he always was.

He takes swim lessons and plays wheelchair basketball in a borrowed chair with the Bay Area Outreach Recreation Program. He also recently began CAF’s High School Adaptive Sports program to prepare him to participate on school teams in track and field.

“He loves playing basketball with friends trying new things because it makes him feel good,” Lisl Shoda, Devan’s mom said. “Perhaps that’s the heart of it, that basketball is not only good for his physical health, but also for his mental health and overall confidence.”

CAF is focused on increasing awareness of adaptive sport competition and creating training and grant opportunities for middle and high school athletes with physical challenges.

Team USA Paralympian, Jorge Sanchez, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in his left femur at the age of eight. The Oakland native went through countless surgeries, in addition to chemotherapy.

He eventually opted to have his leg amputated.

Sanchez learned about adaptive sports and began playing wheelchair basketball. By the age of 14, he had earned MVP on his high school team, then received a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington.

He is now 26 and plays professionally in Spain and is a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team. He is a mentor with CAF and is helping motivate Watkins on his journey with wheelchair basketball.

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