The Oregon Ducks Unified Basketball Team played its way into the national semifinals in Kansas before falling to the University of Louisiana last week.
The team, comprised of UO students and local Special Olympic athletes, beat the top Unified teams in the Pacific Northwest to win the NIRSA Region VI Basketball Championships and advance to the national tournament. It advanced out of pool play to make it into the semifinals.
In one of the highlights of the tournament, Brandon Schmit, an Oregon Duck Special Olympic athlete, was named to the All-American team.
“Our students and Special Olympic athletes competed every game with passion, respect and demonstrated top-notch sportsmanship,” said Amanda Deml, the assistant director of intramural sports in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation.
NIRSA is a collegiate recreation association that was formerly known as the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.
Unified Sports is a Special Olympics program to bring people all of ages, both with and without intellectual disabilities, together as teammates. The UO Department of Physical Education and Recreation’s intramural program partners with Special Olympics to run Unified Sports leagues for basketball and soccer on campus.
An online DuckFunder campaign raised more than $12,500 from 94 donors to fully fund the trip to the national tournament. The team’s trip to the regional tournament was made possible in part by a Diversity Action Plan implementation grant from the Division of Equity and Inclusion, which supports annual diversity initiatives for UO campus groups.
“The community support was truly amazing, and the experience that was provided to our students and athletes will be one they will never forget and will continue to impact their student experience moving forward,” Deml said. “We feel privileged to have supported the Unified division at the national tournament, but more importantly, support the global movement for inclusion.”