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Shooting for Success

Meet the youngest member of Team USA’s wheelchair basketball team!

Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty Images for Scholastic

Ixhelt Gonzalez

She spins, she shoots, she scores! Ixhelt Gonzalez knows her way around a basketball court. And her skills as a defender with the Chicago Skyhawks, a co-ed wheelchair basketball team, caught the attention of national coaches. Last summer, at 13 years old, Ixhelt became the youngest member of the national women’s wheelchair basketball team.

When she found out she made Team USA, she was shocked and a little worried that she was too young. “I was smiling and almost cried because I was so happy,” says Ixhelt, now 14.

Ixhelt’s femurs—the bones that connect her hips to her knees—twist inward because of a condition called femoral anteversion. Ixhelt doesn't use a wheelchair in her daily life and walks without a limp. But she cannot run, walk for long distances, or go up stairs without severe pain. 

When Ixhelt was 7, she was asked to try out for the Skyhawks. Her brother, who has cerebral palsy, was already on the team. Ixhelt didn’t realize she was qualified for the team too. “The stereotypical thinking is that everybody that has a disability should be in a wheelchair,” she says, “but that’s not true.”

Due to her femoral anteversion, Ixhelt uses a special wheelchair to play basketball. It has wheels that are slanted inward for speed. In it, Ixhelt can zoom and spin across the court without pain. The chairs are also extra sturdy so Ixhelt can bang into an opponent's wheelchair—which is part of playing defense. This helps her teammates get a clear shot at
the hoop.

Ixhelt first took to the court as part of Team USA at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Germany last August. Next up? “It is my goal to get to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo,” Ixhelt says. But first she'll join the team at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, later this year. “I’m taking it one step at a time,” she says.

She spins, she shoots, she scores! Ixhelt Gonzalez knows her way around a basketball court. She plays defense for a co-ed wheelchair basketball team called the Chicago Skyhawks. And her skills recently caught the attention of national coaches. Last summer, they asked her to join the U.S. women's wheelchair basketball team. That made 13-year-old Ixhelt the youngest member of the team.

When she found out she made Team USA, Ixhelt was shocked. She was a little worried that she was too young. But "I was smiling and almost cried because I was so happy," says Ixhelt, now 14.

Ixhelt has a condition called femoral anteversion. That means the bones that connect her hips to her knees twist inward more than most people’s do. Ixhelt doesn't use a wheelchair in her daily life. She walks without a limp. But she cannot run, walk for long distances, or climb stairs without severe pain.

When Ixhelt was 7, she was asked to try out for the Skyhawks. Her brother, who has cerebral palsy, was already on the team. Ixhelt didn't realize she was qualified for the team too. "The stereotypical thinking is that everybody that has a disability should be in a wheelchair," she says. "But that's not true."

Because of her condition, Ixhelt uses a special wheelchair to play basketball. Its wheels are slanted inward for speed. In the wheelchair, Ixhelt can zoom around the court without pain. The chair is also extra sturdy. This lets Ixhelt bang into an opponent's wheelchair—which is part of playing defense. Blocking an opponent this way helps her teammates get a clear shot at the hoop.

Team USA competed at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Germany last August. It was Ixhelt’s first time on the court with the team. She hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo. But first she'll join the team at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, later this year. "I'm taking it one step at a time," Ixhelt says.

Use this information to answer the following questions. Download the "Coordinate Grid: 1 Quadrant" template here. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Use this information to answer the following questions. Download the "Coordinate Grid: 1 Quadrant" template here. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Ixhelt shoots a basketball during practice. The ball’s path is described by the function f (x) = x – 0.05x^2 + 4, where x is the number of feet the ball travels horizontally, and f (x), or the y-value, represents the number of feet the ball travels vertically. Fill out the function chart below.

Ixhelt shoots a basketball during practice. The ball’s path is described by the function f (x) = x – 0.05x^2 + 4, where x is the number of feet the ball travels horizontally, and f (x), or the y-value, represents the number of feet the ball travels vertically. Fill out the function chart below.

Use the x- and y-values from your chart as coordinate pairs to draw a graph of the basketball’s trajectory on a separate sheet of paper.

Use the x- and y-values from your chart as coordinate pairs to draw a graph of the basketball’s trajectory on a separate sheet of paper.

At what point did the basketball hit the apex of the parabola?

At what point did the basketball hit the apex of the parabola?

What do you think the y-intercept of 4 represents?

What do you think the y-intercept of 4 represents?

At what x-value do you predict the ball will hit the ground ((x) = 0). Explain how you made your prediction.

At what x-value do you predict the ball will hit the ground ((x) = 0). Explain how you made your prediction.

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