Wheelchair basketball player follows title dream
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There's something to be said about those who wear the number 23 on a basketball court.
A jersey suggestive of the greatest players demands a lot of responsibility, but Preston Howell, a member of the Charlotte Rollin'' Hornets prep wheelchair basketball team, has developed a reputation for delivering.
The 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament was held at the Kentucky Expo Center Thursday through Sunday. The 70th anniversary of the tournament was hosted by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association and the Louisville Sports Commission.
The competition drew more than 1,000 athletes and 300 coaches representing more than 80 teams from across the country, the Louisville Sports Commission said.
Among those athletes was Preston Howell, who traveled to Louisville with his team for the championship.
"Preston is a straight-up assassin on the court," Howell's coach Mike Godsey said.
By all accounts, Howell was more than up for the challenge.
"I just hate losing," Howell said. "I don't like losing. That's my biggest fear. It's hard to deal with."
While he admitted it's uncomfortable to roll onto the court after a loss, Preston said he's no stranger to defeat.
"Ever since I started, we weren't really that good," Howell said. "We didn't know what was up."
That was six years ago. Sunday afternoon, a cheering crowd droned out as teams shook hands - and Preston's mind was set on one thing.
"It's just my dream," Howell said.
A dream that's been years in the making - of winning the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament title.
"It's been nerve-wracking," Howell said. "This is a big deal for me."
A big deal for both Preston and Godsey, but for a reasons that were a little different.
"Letting them understand: They're an athlete," Godsey said. "They happen to use a wheelchair to be an athlete, but they're an athlete just like other kids in high school."
And just like others, Preston said he felt lucky to have made it this far.
"Wow, we've done so much," Howell said. "We've accomplished so much."
But he wanted to win it all.
"This is all I think about sometimes," Howell said.
Sunday afternoon, he did just that.
The Rollin' Hornets won the prep division title.
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