The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) have just hosted their first Team USA selection camp of 2020, of which 22 athletes were cut down to 17. The selection process will continue until the final 12 have been selected for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Steve Serio, a man who has co-captained several Team USA squads in recent years made the first cut and spoke with Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings about Team USA’s preparations ahead of Tokyo.
How does it feel to have made the first cut for Team USA in the lead up to Tokyo?
“It feels great to make the first cut, but it’s only one step towards forming the team for Tokyo. None of our athletes take anything for granted on Team USA because there is always someone ready to take your spot if you don’t work hard.”
What were some of the highlights of the camp?
“Some of the highlights of the camp were getting to see and play alongside everyone again. We all live in different parts of the world, so when we all come together, even when we are competing against one another for spots on the Paralympic team, it’s always a special time. Also, getting a chance to play with and interact with the next generation of Team USA athletes puts the last 15 years for me into perspective.”
How motivated is Team USA heading into Tokyo?
“We are extremely motivated heading into Tokyo. We are the reigning Paralympic Gold Medallists and we know it’ll be even harder to win a second Gold Medal.”
What do you think are the strengths of Team USA?
“The strengths of our team this year is similar to most of the previous Team USA’s I’ve been a part of. We are versatile, athletic, and skilled, but most importantly, we are close friends on and off the court. We push each other to be better on the court and become a family off of the court.”
Are there any improvements you think Team USA needs to make prior to Tokyo?
“Every team, every player should always strive to improve. If you rest on past accomplishments, you will be passed by the next player, or next team that is hungrier than you are. Our athletes on Team USA work hard to improve each and every day.”
Are there any individual goals you want to achieve personally during the Games?
“The only individual goal I have heading into Tokyo right now, is to make the team. If I’m fortunate enough to make the team, then I will work hard to be the best leader and best player I can be for our team in our quest to win another Gold Medal.”
What do you think yourself and Team USA need to do to achieve these goals?
“In order to be the best possible team we can be, we need to continue to work hard and push each other to be better than we are today. We have an amazing group of players that have had a lot of success in our careers. We just need to be ourselves.”
If selected, how do you aim to lead Team USA in Tokyo?
“Leadership is something I’ve tried to focus on all throughout my career. It’s something I can always improve upon each and every year. Each team is different, but our core values always remain the same. If selected, I plan to push myself harder than ever before, whilst putting the team in the best position possible to achieve our goals.”
How has playing for the New York Rollin’ Knicks benefitted your playing career over the last few seasons?
“Playing for the Knicks has been a wonderful experience for me. We have a great group of guys that are all have different strengths and we fit together very well. Also, getting the chance to play alongside and train with Patrick Anderson has not only been a great learning experience for me to improve my skills as a player, but also develop a friendship with someone who I looked at as a rival for many years playing on Team USA.”
Do you miss the aspects of playing for a pro club?
“I absolutely miss playing for a pro club team. My time with Lahn Dill were some of the best years of my basketball career. I grew as a player and as a person while I was in Germany. But I’m at a point in my life where playing in Europe was just not enough for me. I’m not good at standing still, and I feel like I accomplished every goal I wanted to when I was playing for Lahn Dill. I wanted to experience new things and new challenges in my life both on and off the court.”
Would you ever return to play in Europe?
“I would never say that I would never come back to Europe, but it’s an exciting time for wheelchair basketball in the U.S. Even though we do not have a professional league, many worldwide sponsors like Toyota, Nike, and the Hartford are all taking an interest in wheelchair basketball and I’m excited to be a part of the growth of our sport here in my home country.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“I would describe my style of play as unselfish, athletic, and team leading.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“There’s been a number of athletes that I’ve tried to mirror my game after. Paul Schulte and Dave Kiley are two players that I’ve always looked up to, not just because of their game, but how influential they are as people. Also, I learned a lot playing with Joey Johnson at Lahn Dill. Not because we have similar game styles because we are very different players, but how he sees and reads the game.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“Mike Frogley was my collegiate coach at the University of Illinois. He is the one person that taught me the game at a high level and pushed me to become better and better each year. The things he would always tell me are that leadership comes in many different forms, and to always be true to who I was as a player and a person. I still refer to him as ‘coach’ to this day because I am always learning from him.”
If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, which players would you choose and why?
“Well I’m playing with one right now. Patrick Anderson is one of the most skilled players to have ever played this game and its pleasure to get to train with him. I also love training with Matt Scott because he is probably the fastest player in the world, and he pushes me to be better. I would also love to do shooting drills with Becca Murray because I think she would be beat me every time. I think she is the best shooter in the world male or female playing our sport right now.”
Rollt. would like to thank Steve Serio for this interview.
Steve Serio Profile
Date of Birth: 09/08/1987 (aged 31)
Hometown: Westbury, New York
Started playing: 2004
USA senior debut: 2006 World Championships – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Disability: Spinal Cord Injury
Current Club: New York Rollin’ Knicks, USA (2016-Present)
_Long Island Lightning, USA (2004-05)
_University of Illinois, USA (2005-10)
_RSV Lahn Dill, GER (2010-12, 2013-16)
_Winning a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Team USA)
_Winning the IWBF Champions Cup in both 2012 and 2015 (RSV Lahn Dill)
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl