Champion athlete finds fate in wheelchair basketball
Courageous, dedicated and relentless. Those are just a few of the words used to describe Champion Senior Skylar Scarnecchia who has overcome some incredible odds to now shine in the sport of wheelchair basketball.
It's something Skylar would have never dreamed of a few years ago, but says without a doubt she believes everything happens for a reason.
"There is no doubt that God doesn't place certain things and people at the right times and certain situations and you know it has been so clear to me that this is where I am supposed to be and this sport is what I am meant to do," Skylar said.
In less than two years, Skylar's wheelchair basketball talents have become so good, she earned a scholarship to play for the top collegiate program in the country, the University of Alabama.
"It means so much, it is such a humbling experience that I get to be at this point and I just thank everyone who has been along with my journey to get there because I wouldn't have been able to do it without all them, with them pushing me and making me put all those, blood, sweat and tears into it," Skylar said.
It's a testament to her indomitable spirit and perseverance.
At the age of ten, Skylar was diagnosed with cancer in her right foot. Chemo didn't work so they amputated her leg below the knee.
"Even after that I told myself I was going to get back on the basketball court, I was gonna continue playing and nothing was going to stop me," Skylar said.
At first, she was reluctant to even give wheelchair basketball a try.
"I've played basketball my whole life and sophomore year of high school, I got reached out to from a Para-Olympian saying you should try wheelchair basketball and I've never heard of wheelchair basketball before and I was like maybe not, I can run, I can jump, why would I go into a sport and like sit down while playing it."
Eventually, her parents convinced her to swallow her pride and the rest is history.
"It's definitely harder than stand-up basketball, it's a lot of adapting and changing your ways in the game, but a lot of good role models have helped me at like adapt to it and as soon as I made that first shot in the chair, I knew there was something in me," she said.
Little did she know it would take her to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a Summer Camp.
"My mom and dad surprised me at Easter, going to the camp and so that Summer I got to go and as soon as I walked onto that campus, I fell in love with it," Skylar said. "There was nothing I didn't like about it. All the people I was meeting for the first time, amazing, very welcoming and loving. When I had to leave, it was heartbreaking, I did not want to leave because I loved it there so much already."
It not only fueled her passion for the sport even more but it also provided extra motivation to get recruited by Alabama.
"That is when I really knew I need to take this game serious and really need to improve as a player and a person to be the player I want to be in the game," Skylar said. "I knew for a moment that was where I was meant to be no matter how much work I needed to put in, that was where I was gonna go."
That trip also gave her another sign that everything happens for a reason.
"We saw the mascot and the mascot was an elephant and it had a trunk-up and backstory, trunk-up means good luck and an elephant means to me, when I was going through cancer and I was sick, the lady who made my t-shirts said pick your favorite animal to put on the sleeve of your t-shirt and I chose an elephant trunk-up and so in that moment when I saw that elephant, my family saw it and we just were hugging each other and cried and it was like God said here you go, I am making it clear to you, this is where you need to be, it doesn't happen by accident where you are going to be at this college and you chose this elephant and they all match up."
Beyond college, Skylar also has her sights set on the 2028 Para-Olympics in Los Angeles.
"My goal for the future with this sport, wheelchair basketball, is to make Team USA and become on some of the national teams and I have so much to work on of course, but that is my goal, fingers crossed one day," Skylar said.
"How do you achieve that goal?"
"So much work, so much self-isolation in this sport, really pushing myself and when I don't believe in myself, my family believes in me to do that as well so there is a lot that goes into it and I might not see it right now also what has to go into it but one day I will," she said.
Skylar has been working on hosting a wheelchair basketball tournament in Champion and on January 13th, she has the Cleveland Cavaliers wheelchair team playing in a doubleheader at Champion High School at 11 a.m. More details to follow.