Published February 10, 2012
Deaf Basketball League
Place to Play, Hang Out
Leauge Coordinator Kara Andrade (right) discusses logistics with other commitee members before the Deaf Basket Ball Association's Skills Contest and All-Star Game Night held at the Student Life Center on Friday February 3, 2012.
Josh Barber

There are ten of them running down the court, each drenched in sweat from playing intensely for almost thirty minutes. Players on offense call out for the ball, while the defense closely guards their matchups, waiting to snatch the ball away for a score. As the player with the ball attempts to advance for a score, it’s knocked out of bounds. The referee, stands nearby and signs the color of one team’s jersey, signaling which team gets possession of the ball. No, that’s not an error. Instead of using traditional referee gestures, he uses American Sign Language to communicate with the players.

The game being played was basketball, and it was played as part of RIT/NTID’s Deaf Basketball League (DBA). Teams meet twice a week every winter for ten weeks, and play almost a dozen games scheduled by the league. The league is geared towards deaf students from RIT and NTID, although hearing students can also participate.

According to DBA Chairperson and fifth year Business and Human Resource major Kara Andrade, the DBA was formed in 1998. In the DBA, a game is played much like in the NBA. Both leagues require a lot of endurance; the DBA plays 40-minute games, while the NBA plays 48. The DBA allows for a longer resting period, however, as they split the games into 20-minute halves. The DBA also has a restriction on fouls much like the NBA does. According to Andrade, if a player acts out with improper conduct, then they will not be allowed to play until they fill out a player misconduct form, which the DBA committee will review before deciding the appropriate action against the player.

Andrade said the DBA has enjoyed success as one of the places deaf students to go to make friends and become healthier individuals. Fourth year Business major Christopher Morgan, the club’s referee coordinator and a referee at two all-star games and three championship games, said that the club has had more teams than in the past. “[The] DBA can only hold up to sixteen different teams,” said Morgan. “So this year we have nine men’s teams and seven women’s teams. [The] seven teams for the women is a record in the DBA.” Morgan also noted that one of the women’s teams has yet to lose a game.

Morgan, who has been a referee for all four years at RIT, disclosed that he also referees outside of the DBA and has refereed for youth basketball leagues and high school level games in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. He has also refereed for the annual RIT/Galludet sports weekend where students at RIT compete against students from Gallaudet, a top university for the deaf in the United States located in Washington, D.C.

When asked if there were any famous people to come from the DBA, Andrade responded with a laugh, “They’re all famous!”

But in fact, one person worth mentioning is former DBA Advisor Marsha Wetzel. According to the Patriot League website, she is a former wellness instructor for NTID who, in November 2002, became the first deaf female referee in Division I basketball history. During the time she worked at RIT/NTID, she was a student advisor for the DBA.

In a 2006-2007 newsletter for RIT/NTID parents, Wetzel was quoted saying positive things about the DBA. “Even though the DBA is meant for recreational fun and is open even to hoop-shooting beginners, it has some exciting similarities to professional leagues,” she said. “The DBA includes events similar to those in the National Basketball Association and the Women’s National Basketball Association. For instance, the DBA includes all-star games, a three-point shooting contest, and a free-throw contest.” Astrid “AJ” Jones, a 2001 Gallaudet graduate, has succeeded Wetzel as the current DBA student advisor.

The all-star game was Friday, February 3, with some other smaller competitions occurring on the same night. These included a three-point shooting contest, a game of “21,” and a skills challenge, which is similar to that of the NBA’s skills challenge competition. The play-offs and the championship followed on Saturday. The results of both events can be found under the RIT intramural leagues website.

Although the DBA season has come to a close, the future looks promising. The 2011-12 season was extremely successful: memories were made, games were won, games were lost and, in the end, there was a champion. But the real champions are all the students that participated.

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