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Tampa man earns scholarship to play wheelchair basketball

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 17:22:24-05

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Carlos Quintanilla takes the basketball court, there are no limitations for him, only focus, drive and determination.

"When I'm on the court I feel equal. I feel unstoppable," the 20-year-old said.

He said he was born with spina bifida and after surgery at 13 years old, eventually ended up using a wheel chair full time. Growing up, Quintanilla said he dealt with bullying and struggled with friends.

But around age 13, he said he was introduced to wheelchair basketball, and was amazed.

"This sport has definitely changed my perception, my perspective about everything. [When] I didn’t know the sport, I was down. I felt like I had no opportunity in this world. Once I found the sport, it has taught me life lessons. It’s taught me communication skills. It’s taught me how to persevere through challenges," Quintanilla said.

Since then, he's put in countless hours of practice on the court playing for a team through Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation.

"These guys go full tilt, they’re very aggressive as far as the game goes," said his coach, Wayne Bozeman.

Bozeman describes the sport as competitive and tough.

"I think these guys are the best athletes out there because of what they have to do and the hard work they put in to play in this game," he said.

"It just kind of gave me a sense of motivation to, 'Hey, there’s a lot more opportunities in this world than that have been taken away from me because of my disability.' And it just kind of lifted me up," said Quintanilla.

Quintanilla's work on the game is paying off. He said he received a scholarship offer to play for the University of Arizona. Bozeman said he'll be the third player from the team to play collegiately.

"If Carlos goes to college, works hard there, I believe he’ll be a Paralympian. I really do," said Bozeman.

Quintanilla plans to start there in the fall to study information science and technology, transferring his studies from St. Petersburg College.

"It’s a new level of the sport and I’m just ready to show everybody what I’m capable of," he said.

He said he also wants to one day play the sport professionally.

"Never give up. Because anything is possible if you put your mind to it then you can achieve anything. Your mind is your only limitation," he said.