Shawn Russell, known as ‘The Huss’, began playing wheelchair basketball in 2003 and now at the age of 32 says he has never looked back. Since first touching a basketball, Russell has gone onto become a squad member for the Australian Rollers Wheelchair basketball team and a Paralympic athlete, representing Australia at the 2016 Rio Games.
The Huss, destined to find wheelchair basketball was first introduced to the sport by a Roller Hawks team member in 2003 whilst being fitted for his first leg.
“I was very active when I was a kid. I played hockey before I started all the operations on my leg. Being an amputee, I never thought I would become a professional athlete.
Finding wheelchair basketball was a blessing as it not only gave opportunities to travel and be part of a team environment again but also gave me a new support network when dealing with the earlier stages of my disability,” he said.
The Huss was born with a short right leg and had to wear prothesis to move and walk around. At only 17 he made the decision to amputate.
“As I grew up the difference between the legs grew and became too much to support with my prosthesis.
At the age of nine I had an operation to lengthen my leg. This involved wearing a steel cage around my leg with pins going through each side, having the bone broken and pulled apart to let the bone heal, he said.
“Once I got the cage off, my knee had locked straight due to the stress and cartilage that had built up. I was now stuck with a straight leg, so at the age of 17 I decided to amputate it. Happy days ever since.”
The Huss, who wears the number four on his jersey, is a 4-point classification player in the Rollers. A 4-point player has normal trunk movement, but usually due to limitations in one or both lower limbs they can have difficulty with balance and controlled sideways movement.
For The Huss though, being able to represent his country at an event such as the Paralympics is a privilege, and his desire to inspire others as he has been by his idols, is moving.
“For me it’s an honour to be able to represent my country and to be part of a legacy that is ever growing. To be able to play on the same stage as all the world-class athletes before me and to hopefully inspire up and coming athlete’s like others did for me.
“I am inspired by a lot of people, including current and past members of the roller’s community. Growing up I was, and still am, a massive Orlando Magic fan. I was obsessed with Tracey McGrady and loved to watch him play, said Russell.
Having competed at the 2016 Rio Games, The Huss is now no stranger to the biggest world stage for Wheelchair basketball.
“When I went to the Rio games, I felt a little nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. I heavily relied on previous experience of others to mentally prepare myself.”
Craig Friday, the Australian Rollers Head Coach speaks highly of The Huss and his game.
“Shawn the Hustle Russell is an extremely popular member of the Rollers and has been for a long time” Friday says.
“Shawn has outstanding chair skills and when he is checked in mentally there is no better High pointer in the game. His ability to get from chair to chair in defence with quick hands on wheels, to then be able to intercept or steal a ball at top speed is a great asset. He complements this with a high IQ and great ability to bring other players into the game.”
The Huss will be looking to take on his second Paralympics with the Rollers who have qualified for Tokyo and will head to the Paralympics now re-scheduled for 2021.