Cavs, Team USA on a Roll

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On Friday night, the Cavaliers squad boasted a three-time NBA Champion, an All-Star forward, a two-time All-Defensive First Teamer, a former Slam Dunk Contest winner and a man whose college scoring records will never be broken.

They never stood a chance.

Of course, that quintet – respectively represented by Byron Scott, Campy Russell, Paul Pressey, Larry Nance and Austin Carr – were taking on the best ballplayers in the country. (And soon, maybe the best in the world.)

The matchup pitted Cavaliers coaches, front office and legends against the U.S. Olympic Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. The event – in which proceeds went to support the Olympic team as they prepare for the London 2012 Paralympic games – was held at the sprawling SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

SPIRE Institute is one of the largest indoor, multi-sport, training and competition complexes on the planet – with more than 750,000 square feet of Olympic-grade indoor facilities and acres of outdoor facilities.

Hudson’s own Will Waller – also a member of the Wheelchair Cavaliers – is the captain of the U.S. Men’s Team. And he was just one of the participants who marveled at SPIRE’s facilities as he and his teammates prepare for London.

“This was our first event in Ohio and we’re looking to partner with SPIRE in the future, that’s the goal,” said the 37-year-old Waller. “The facility is great, but the mission they have for sport, in general – building character and leadership – that’s the thing that's most impressive about what the SPIRE team is doing.”

Waller and his squad were very impressive on Friday night. Although the competition won’t be as weak for the Wheelchair Team as it was on Friday night. And that’s not an insult to the brave Cavalier participants who played. It just speaks volumes to the strength and skill of the Olympic squad.

The group of Cavaliers drew a sizeable crowd. And Coach Scott and his staff held a Kid’s Skills Clinic before the actual game. But once the actual affair tipped off, competition-wise, the Cavs contingent provided little resistance.

The game was seven minutes old before the Cavaliers scored their first bucket, and the score was still 15-2 after one quarter. Things continued along that path, with the U.S. Team leading the Wine and Gold, 29-4, after two quarters.

“I’m actually really proud of our team,” quipped Cavaliers GM Chris Grant at halftime. “We actually doubled the amount of points I thought we’d score in the first half.”

Among the Cavalier Legends participating, Larry Nance was easily the star of the show. Nance and Waller did playfully battle before the game with Nance boldly announcing: “I’m playing the whole game!” But as the Wheelchair Team began piling on the points, Nance changed his tune – taking barbs from Campy Russell and Austin Carr the entire time.

“I thought you were supposed to be a shot-blocker!” Campy chided after Nance gave up one hoop.

“This ain’t hockey!” bellowed A.C. as Nance, at one point, simply rolled his chair backwards, directly under the opponent’s basket – and waited.

“Larry comes out to all these events and he’s just world class for his support of both the Wheelchair Cavs and the National Team,” praised Waller. “Out of all the guys on the Cavs he’s the one who’s got the most overall skills.”

Cavaliers assistant Joe Prunty marveled at his Olympic counterparts.

“First of all, it’s awesome out there,” said a winded Prunty at halftime. “They’re the best of the best.”

The California native described the action on the floor.

“From the beginning, I would say that it didn’t look easy, and when you’re out there, it’s even more difficult than it looks,” explained Prunty, who took some ribbing of his own for failing to catch up to a loose ball. “I knew my arms would get tired, but the funny thing is – for example – when somebody says ‘Shoot!’ you’ve already worked so hard just to get into that spot, that now when it’s time to raise your arms to shoot, your shoulders are so tired, it’s tough to even get a gauge on how far the shot’s going to be.”

For the sake of fairness, the scorers at SPIRE flip-flopped the score at half, just to give our Wine and Gold warriors a chance. And they actually “won” when the National Team’s game-winner drew back iron.

But Friday’s event wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about raising money and awareness for a group of brave, skilled men who will represent our country at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

“(We’re) really just trying to have as much preparation together as a team,” concluded Will Waller. “We’ve got a phenomenal talent-base. The biggest goal is to integrate with one another and form a cohesive team. We do that through training camps and we do that through other competitions, too.

“So there will be a variety of those competitions that’ll prepare us for London. And then we just have to go out there and leave it on the court. That’s the plan.”