BARROW COUNTY, Ga. — You might see this local athlete in the next Paralympic Games, as he climbs to the top of the adaptive sports world. What's even crazier; he’s only a senior in high school. Collin Lancaster, 18, is hard to miss on the basketball court. He’s agile, aggressive, and takes a shot at every chance.
The only difference, he does it from a wheelchair.
“It’s an intense game, just like regular basketball, regular football,” Collin said.
He is a senior at Bethlehem Christian Academy in Bethlehem and MVP of his wheelchair basketball team. Recently, they won the Big Peach Slam Jam Tournament sponsored by the Atlanta Hawks at the end of January, pushing Collin’s team ranking to number one in the nation.
However, it's been a long journey to this kind of success.
“When [Collin] was five, we had a car accident,” mom Jessica Lancaster said. “No one quite knew what the outcome was going to be in the beginning.”
Collin spent eight weeks in the hospital with a spinal cord injury before he was released with a new way of navigating the world – on wheels.
“Those first few months were especially tough,” Collin admits.
At 6-years-old, he found Blaze Sports, a non-profit dedicated to adaptive sports and founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.
“He was 6 -years-old at practice and he thought he owned the place,” his mom said. “Collin has been competitive since he came out. Like, he would race you to finish dinner.”
As it turns out, that competitive gene runs in the family; most notably with Collin's dad.
“Sometimes he’s yelling, and people are like ‘Oh my gosh, that was directed at you.’ I’m like, I know,” Collin said. “It’s fun because he loves the sport. It’s really fun for me to especially go along in this journey with my dad right there on the bench with me.”
However, his dad, Marc, is not the only one who knows his kid has skills. Collin is one of only two high schoolers to make the Under 23 USA National Team and will go to Mexico representing the U.S. to play in March.
“It’s an honor to be able to go represent my country in Mexico,” Collin said. “I just put in a lot of hard work over the years and it’s starting to pay off a little bit.”
“There's another high school senior from Jacksonville who's actually going to be my roommate in college next year. So, it's been really fun to play against him and play with him at the international level, and I'm excited for next year,” Collin added.
After that, he’s headed to college where he’ll play for the University of Alabama on their collegiate team, one of 13 colleges that offers wheelchair basketball.
“They built this brand-new facility just for adapted athletes,” father Marc Lancaster said. “It’s top-of-the-line, first-class facilities, you know, just like you would expect them to have for the college football team.”
Collin added that he loves the school, the coach, and assistant coach.
“There's a girls team there that I have a few friends on, so it's good to know a few more people outside of just the boys' team there,” Collin said.
Who knows? You might see Colling in the next Paralympic games.
“I got another invite for the U.S. Senior Adult team, which is the Paralympic team that just won gold in Tokyo last year,” he explained.
Tryouts for the Paralympic team are in April, so wish him luck! Only 70 people received an invite to try out.
Collin’s too humble to recognize he’s a role model, but he has a message for anyone reaching for a dream.
“Trust the process. Keep going. Keep pushing through. It’s going to get tough, but I mean, that’s what it takes. That’s what makes everybody great is when they push through even the rough times,” he said.