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March 2, 2011

Knight signs on to roll with the Crimson Tide

Caitlin McDermott has played against men and women and against some of the best players in the world.

Caitlin McDermott has played against men and women and against some of the best players in the world.

Next year, McDermott, a senior at Ardrey Kell, will play wheelchair basketball at the University of Alabama.

McDermott, born with spina bifida, officially signed Feb. 8 to play at Alabama, but she knew her decision weeks before.

"Every time I went there I liked it more," she said. "I knew it was the place for me."

Only four schools in the country have women's wheelchair basketball programs: Alabama, Illinois, Arizona and Wisconsin-Whitewater. McDermott said she only seriously considered Alabama and Illinois.

McDermott, 18, will get a partial scholarship from the athletic program and additional academic scholarships. She also is applying for smaller scholarships to cover all the costs. She plans to major in psychology and hopes to get a job in rehab psychology, where she can help newly injured patients cope with disabilities.

For her senior project at Ardrey Kell, McDermott focused on the lack of wheelchair sports in high school and college. She finished last semester and received a perfect score.

"Presenting (the project) and seeing the judges' response gave me a good feeling about it, knowing how little people know about it and how interested they are when they learn about it," she said.

McDermott also planned a disability awareness event at Ardrey Kell in late March, where teachers and students from the school will play a wheelchair basketball game against her Charlotte Rollin' Bobcats junior team.

Last July, McDermott traveled to England to compete with the USA Women's National Wheelchair Basketball Team at the 2010 World Championships. At 17, she was the youngest player on the team.

"We ended up winning gold and I got to play in a couple of games when we were up by a lot, and that was a really good experience. I had a lot of fun," she said.

In addition to playing with the Rollin' Bobcats, she has been practicing with the men's team and is also playing for a women's team in Dallas. The experiences she has had with those teams should help her in college, she said.

"The junior team kind of gave me my basis, and being coached by (Rollin' Bobcats coach Dave) Kiley gave me my foundation," she said. "The Dallas team gave me the experience (of playing) with the women's team and the college players ... and the world championship kind of built on that, because I got to play with the best players in the world."

McDermott said she can't wait to join her new team in Tuscaloosa.

"It's a new experience, a whole new journey to go on," she said.

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