University of Arizona senior Shantelle Winslow was born with a neural tube defect. She wasn’t able to walk as a child, but — following surgeries — has regained some mobility.
For the last six years, Winslow has played for the UA women’s wheelchair basketball team. The UA’s adaptive athletics program recruited her from Utah team four years ago. A couple of weeks ago, Winslow made the first cut towards making Team USA.
“I always wanted to make Team USA,” Winslow said. “I tried out last year and I didn’t make it. My heart was crushed, but I was like ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t make that team.’ So I tried out this year and made the cut.”
The final cut for Team USA is set for April and world competitions start in August in Germany. Winslow isn’t the only Wildcat with national team goals; teammate Sarah Heinzl is trying to make it for a second time.
Winslow and Heinzl both played for Arizona in a women’s wheelchair basketball tournament this weekend. The Wildcats closed out the tourney with a charity game against the Arizona Storm, followed by their Senior Night game against the University of Illinois.
The charity game raised money for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. Winslow has previously worked with Emerge through the student advocacy group on campus. So, once the team decided on which organization to donate to, Winslow used her contacts to set it up.
“We really wanted to do that because we’re all Arizona women and a lot of the people that are on the Arizona Storm are alumni from the University of Arizona and we want to give back to the community,” Winslow said. “I remember my coach asked ‘what charity do you want to put it towards?’ I said ‘I think, since we’re a women’s tournament, we should give it to a women’s center.’”
The Wildcats ultimately lost to the Arizona Storm, a local team made up of some Arizona alums, 53-41.
“It was a great game,” Heinzl, who recently received her Master’s from Arizona, said. “I was excited to play and be a part of it.”
The three-day tournament served as the last home games for the Wildcats, who complete their season in March. The team celebrated its three seniors prior to tipping off against Illinois.
“This will be my last home tournament wearing Arizona colors,” Winslow said. “It’s exciting and sad.”
Heinzl was 13 years old when she caught a cold and the virus went to her spinal cord, resulting in transverse myelitis.
It initially paralyzed her from the waist down. Heinzl had another attack at 21, resulting in some fine motor loss.
Three years ago, the now 28-year-old joined the Arizona. She played for Team USA for the 2016-17 season.
“I’ve always seen the Paralympians and things like that and I’ve always had the goal of getting to Team USA,” Heinzl said. “Having the university and having the resources like Jen Poist, a Paralympian gold medalist, and being able to train with her, things like that have really pushed my game to the next level.”