Full-Court Press

Photos 4, 5, and 6 by Cassie McNulty and Seong-Hee Yoon. All others by Leisa Thompson Photography

Feranmi Okanlami (M.D. 2011) played basketball with his 7-year-old son recently. Just a small, sweet moment between a father and son — or that's what it would have been, if it weren't something so much bigger.

Okanlami, paralyzed from the chest down during a 2013 pool accident, has regained some mobility and function since then, but still uses a wheelchair most of the time. So sharing some moments on the court with his son was particularly meaningful to him. "My son said, 'Dad, now we can play together,'" Okanlami recalls.

That moment reminded Okanlami of why it is so important to him to try to get an adaptive sports program started at the university.

While he is pushing for the creation of an adaptive sports program for U-M students, Michigan Medicine already has a competitive wheelchair basketball team for kids. The Michigan Rollverines, run by the U-M Adaptive and Inclusive Sports Experience (UMAISE), a joint effort of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Department of Family Medicine, competed in its first tournament earlier this year. The team received new sports wheelchairs in 2018, thanks to support from Dance Marathon, a nonprofit led by U-M undergraduates.


1. Jimmy Moceri, a wheelchair basketball star, fixes a wheel before hitting the court. 
2. "It's bigger than sports. It's bigger than disability," Okanlami says. "It's about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It's about being able to participate in sports with your friends, or your classmates, or your son." 
3. Okanlami (in chair) has led several wheelchair basketball outings, during which able-bodied and disabled students, faculty, staff, and members of the community have played together. 
4. "When you give kids the opportunity to use their chair to play a sport and have fun, it's eye-opening for them and also for their parents, who get to interact with their kids in a different way and see their kids in a different light," says Daniel Ellman, a Michigan Medicine communication specialist who is the head coach of the Rollverines. The team has grown quickly since it formed in September 2018. 
5. "We started with about five or six regular participants. Since then, we've grown to around 15 kids, aged from 4 to 16, and we come together every week to improve skills and to help our kids learn how to work together and have fun as a team," says Meghan Veiga, program coordinator and an assistant coach for the team, as well as a recreational therapist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 
6. Volunteer coach Mark Bacon, a senior manager in Management Information Systems at U-M, helps a young player. 


More Articles About: basketball disability gallery Rollverines wheelchair basketball UMAISE adaptive sports
Featured News & Stories older woman on phone with credit card in hand
Health Lab
Health plays a role in older adults' vulnerability to scams
Most older adults have faced an attempted scam, and some have been defrauded, but rates were higher among those with health problems or disabilities.
Health Lab
Wheelchair basketball player holds court with U-M men’s team
Rollverines team helps build strength, confidence for those unable to play able-bodied basketball.
Sam Grewe wearing his Paralympic gold medal in high jump
Michigan Answers
Sam’s Michigan Answer: A medical school that sees him as a champion
Ten years after his cancer diagnosis, Sam won a gold medal. Now, after traveling around the globe through world championships and Olympic stadiums, he was ready for a new adventure: medical school at the University of Michigan.
Medicine at Michigan
3D Printing a More Accessible Future
A medical student advocates for health care providers with disabilities.
Medicine at Michigan
Michigan Medicine physicians, patients, and students are breaking down barriers