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By Joey Yashinksy

There was a slight break in Horizon League tournament action on Saturday, but that didn’t mean the day’s entertainment took any breather at all.

Before an enthusiastic crowd at Joe Louis Arena, The Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation put on their 15th annual Celebrity Wheelchair Basketball game.  It brought together the Detroit Diehards - RIM’s award-winning wheelchair basketball team - with a group of local celebrities, including former Michigan football star and two-time Super Bowl champion Lamarr Woodley, former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, and gold medal-winning swimmer Peter VanderKaay. 

The coaches leading the two sides were Earl Cureton and John Long, both former Detroit Mercy Titan greats that also went on to play for the Detroit Pistons.  Cureton was good-natured about the spirit of the charity game, though he couldn’t completely shake his competitive streak.  “I really enjoyed being out here,” he said.  “A bunch of great guys.  But my team just couldn’t make shots.  And then the other team has this football player banking in 3-pointers!”

That player was Lamarr Woodley, the MVP of the game.  He’s made his living as an NFL linebacker, but on this day, he looked fairly comfortable with a basketball in his hands.

“This was such a great experience,” Woodley said.  “To have the opportunity to participate was wonderful.  Anything for a good cause, I am down for it.”

Despite his MVP status, the difficulty of the sport was not lost on Woodley.  “It is a lot harder than it looks,” he said.  “I have major respect for the Detroit Diehards, because this is very tough.”

 

And @lamarrwoodley wins MVP of the RIMF Foundation Wheelchair Celebrity All-Star Game #motorcitymadness

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His fellow Michigan Wolverine, Devin Gardner, agreed.  “I thought I was a good basketball player.  This is a whole other world.  It’s a big time workout.”

Katie Spillane, Vice President of the RIM Foundation, was happy to be holding the game at a professional sports arena.  “We are super excited to partner with the Horizon League and Olympia Entertainment, especially during March Madness,” she said.  “The Detroit Diehards are national champs.  They travel all around the country.  So we make sure when we have these games, to mix up them and the celebrities.  We found that out the hard way.”

Other highlights from the game included the playmaking ability from Diehards’ member Tyrone Bradley, who said it “felt awesome to be playing at Joe Louis Arena.”

All proceeds from the game will benefit the RIM Foundation’s wheelchair sports program.

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