More than 100 athletes will compete. Above, the Arizona Storm Women and University of Arizona D2 at October’s Duel in the Desert in Phoenix.

Courtesy of SAAS

A bevy of talented athletes — including several University of Arizona teams — will show their stuff in the Tucson Veterans Weekend Wheelchair Basketball Tournament & Adaptive Sports Expo.

The event, which is open to the public to attend, is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Pascua Yaqui Wellness Center, 5305 Calle Torim.

“The sport of wheelchair basketball is very unique and fast-paced and exciting. It is a great sport and people love it. People should come out and see who these athletes are and all that they can do. They will be very entertained,” said Mia Hansen, coordinator of the tournament and board member for Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports.

SAAS is a local nonprofit on a mission to transform the lives of people with physical disabilities through provision and promotion of year-round recreational, competitive and fitness opportunities. It serves clients ages 14 and older, including wounded warriors and veterans, people with amputations, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, head injuries, cerebral palsy and other conditions.

In addition to wheelchair basketball, the program offers opportunities in wheelchair tennis, adaptive cycling, water sports and adventure excursions and other fitness and recreation activities. It provides coaching, mentoring, loans of adaptive sports equipment and guidance to help those in need access specially-designed equipment and wheelchairs, which routinely cost at least $2,500.

With 10 percent of Pima County’s population identified as disabled by the Census Bureau from 2011 to 2015, Hansen said the organization plays a key role in the community.

“Recreation is important for everyone. It improves quality of life to be active and fit and participate in sports. It builds confidence and camaraderie when they are around others who face similar challenges and impacts these people’s lives on so many levels,” said Hansen.

Hansen emphasized the adaptive sports community adds to the diversity of the city.

“The UA has one of the largest adaptive athletic programs at any university in the country. We are thrilled that they will be playing at the basketball tournament along with other Tucson teams. It is very special — and very unusual — for a city of 1 million people to have five adult wheelchair basketball teams, and we are also developing a junior team. It is very exciting,” she said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net