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Liam Frobisher helped his Portland Junior Wheelblazers advance to the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

COURTESY PHOTO: KIM MICHEL - Liam Frobisher with third place trophy at a tournament in Arizona in December.Scappoose High School senior Liam Frobisher is grabbing rebounds and scoring points all over the basketball court — all without the use of his legs.

Frobisher is a member of the Portland Junior Wheelblazers, a group of kids playing wheelchair basketball at a high level. The Wheelblazers recently competed in the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

There were two divisions in the tournament, one with the top 16 teams. The Wheelblazers were on the invitational tournament, which featured teams 17 through 32.

The Wheelblazers wrapped up their Wichita visit with one win and three losses.

While the Wheelblazers weren't able to claim the championship this year, Frobisher is happy to have participated.

"I think it was great that we even got there," Frobisher said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I'm grateful that my coaches, teammates and I put in the work to get there. It was not easy to be one of those top teams to be able to play in that tournament."

Like everyone else, the Wheelblazers had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

"After COVID hit and we were separated for quite a while, it seemed like it was going to be something that would be even harder to do," Frobisher said. "But we just kept working on it, and we kept growing as a team."

Unlike some wheelchair athletes, Frobisher only started using a wheelchair a few years ago. He became paralyzed from the waist down at age 12 from an autoimmune disease,

Frobisher discovered wheelchair basketball while he was in the hospital for rehab. With a bit of a nudge from his mother, he decided to pursue his goal of joining a team.

"At first, I was really hesitant," he said. "I liked the idea of it, but I didn't want to go to a practice, meet all the people and try something new. Eventually my mom made me go, and I'm grateful that she did, because I fell in love with it right away.

"It was great to be seen as a basketball player and not a wheelchair basketball player."

Frobisher, who just completed his fifth season with the Wheelblazers, said his coach, Kim Michel, encourages hard work.

"We wouldn't have been at that tournament — we wouldn't be anywhere — without her," Frobisher said. "She pushes us, she makes us work hard, and she also makes us work together, which is very important. Basketball is a team sport."

Frobisher continued, "You have to have that companionship between your teammates and between the coaches. … Kim made sure to teach us and help us grow, where every single player on our team was a threat and they couldn't just stop our team by guarding one or two players, because we were all capable of going out there and putting on a show on the court."

While Frobisher gives Michel credit, she returns it in kind. She told the Spotlight that Frobisher gives 100% on the court.

"Liam is the leader of our team, by far. Liam leads by example … he is amazing," Michel said.

"The first year I coached was the first year he came into the program," she explained, noting it took Frobisher about a year to transition from an able-bodied mindset to a wheelchair mindset. "But watching these kids that were younger help him do that was incredible."

Frobisher has words of encouragement for people who have disabilities.

"Keep trying new things. Be open to new opportunities," he said. "I think it's important to just keep going and keep trying new things until you find something you like, and stick to it."

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