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Queens College student becomes first-ever CUNY athlete invited to try out for U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball national team

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Queens College student Seira Garcia is the first CUNY student-athlete to be invited to a Team USA tryout in any sport. (Photo courtesy of CUNYAC)

With a historic invitation to the 2022 Selection Camp for the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball national team, Queens College student Seira Garcia has become the first CUNY student-athlete to be invited to a Team USA tryout in any sport. 

The selection will take place April 12-16 at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. 

“I had to read the email three times to make sure it was real,” Garcia said of receiving the news of her invitation to try out for Team USA. 

Garcia credits her family, especially her mother, for instilling in her a sense of purpose. Her mother’s oft-repeated mantra, “The mind is more powerful than anything else,” continues to sustain Garcia. 

Even after seven surgeries and overcoming a host of other challenges, she remains determined and positive, she said. 

“Life can be great, if you allow it to be,” Garcia said. 

Garcia was born in Florida and raised in Puerto Rico. At the age of 7, she was diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes, a degenerative disease that affects the hip joint. 

The condition forced her to stop playing standing basketball in 2014, when she was 17 years old. Not one to be sidelined, she soon discovered wheelchair basketball and began playing with the Federación de Baloncesto en Silla de Ruedas de Puerto Rico (FEBASIRU), Puerto Rico’s wheelchair basketball team.

By 2016, Garcia was also playing for the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty amateur clubs sponsored by the local NBA and WNBA franchises.

Garcia, a junior majoring in urban studies at Queens College, has been a key contributor to Team CUNY, currently in its first year competing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA). Garcia is Team CUNY’s leading scorer, with an average of 16.5 points per game.

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Photo courtesy of CUNYAC

The men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams, the first of their kind in the Northeast, were launched as a result of a 2017 City University of New York Athletic Conference Inclusive and Adaptive Sports Initiative for Recreational Intercollegiate Sports and Competitive Athletics. The wheelchair basketball program is based at Queens College and Hostos Community College. 

Garcia started playing for CUNY’s wheelchair basketball team after Ryan Martin, CUNY director of inclusive and adaptive sports, reached out and persuaded her to join in 2020. 

“We are excited that Seira was invited to compete for a spot with Team USA. She’s had a great first season and been a key part of the launch of the women’s team at CUNY,” Martin said. “The whole university is behind her, and we wish her the best of luck as she starts her international career.”  

Queens College President Frank Wu congratulated Garcia. 

“Seira demonstrates what’s possible when we make inclusion a priority. It presents opportunities that change lives and build futures,” said Queens College President Frank Wu. “We are deeply proud of Seira’s accomplishments as a student and an athlete and anticipate that more students will be inspired to travel the path that she’s paved toward Team USA — and every other opportunity that it makes possible. Everyone at Queens College wishes her the best of luck; we’ll be cheering her on from here!” 

The invitation to a team selection camp puts Garcia in elite company, as she will compete alongside the nation’s most exceptional players. Only 29 athletes from across the country were invited to try out for seated basketball, and only 12 players plus three alternates will ultimately be selected to participate in the Paralympic Games. 

USA wheelchair basketball’s historical success makes the United States the world’s most decorated national program. The men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball squads have combined to win 13 gold, two silver and eight bronze medals since the Paralympic Games began in 1960, making the U.S. the top-scoring nation overall. The U.S. men won the gold medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and the women brought home the bronze. 

After she graduates from Queens College, Garcia plans to earn a master’s degree in psychology and pursue a doctorate in sports psychology. She hopes to provide outreach to improve the lives of homeless people and those recovering from addiction.

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