Bill Latham Rollers Q&A
Heading into his first Paralympic Games, wheelchair basketball star Bill Latham talks to Julia Felts about the focus and determination the Australian Rollers have to win Gold in London and the competition ahead of them in the Rollers and Gliders World Challenge in Sydney next week.
How does it feel to be heading into the Paralympics for the first time, especially for a team with such a successful history?
BL: Itís a pretty exciting time to be a part of the Rollers, playing with the guys on the team, learning from them, and also giving something back to the team as well, itís a great feeling.
You were so close to making the team in 2008, how did missing out on that affect you?
BL: I did miss out on going to Beijing but in the long run, Iím going to London. Iím very happy to be part of the team. I donít regret anything that happened. The guys won Beijing so the coaches made their decision and it was the right one for the team.
You are one of only two debutantes for the Rollers in this Paralympics, was it hard to break into the team mold and find a role for yourself?
BL: Iíve been in and out of the team for many years now, but as far as finding a new role, not really it wasnít really difficult. The guys that are a part of the team are great players and itís always good to play with them.
Being one of the younger players on the team is there anyone you look up to or someone who has really helped you along in this process?
BL: The team has great leaders, with the captain Brad Ness. Itís a great bunch of guys and most of them are older than me theyíre all really supportive towards the younger guys. Being one of the younger players, itís not really much of a problem. Everyone is treated the same, so itís good.
Are you guys pretty close on and off the court as a whole?
BL: We get along off the court as well, there is always joking and a bit of niggle between the guys, itís good fun on and off the court.
So you had part of your leg amputated in 2003 as a result of a tractor accident. Was sport a part of your life before the accident?
BL: I was 5five when I had the accident, but I had started swimming. Since I did have the accident, I was a swimmer, but Iíve played all different sports. I did a bit of lawn bowls, athletics, basketball, swimming, archery. I tried a bit of everything, but basketball seems to be my favorite.
What about basketball appealed to you?
BL: Itís a team sport, I didnít like being a swimmer so much. Just by yourself in the water all the time wasnít entertaining for me. So being part of a team, part of group, itís good fun.
The Rollers are currently ranked #1 heading into the Paralympics, does that add pressure for you guys or does it motivate you all?
BL: I think it motivates us all, everyone wants to win. Weíre going out to prove to everyone that we are number one and we want to go out and win every game.
With 47 days left until the Paralympics kick-off what is the main focus for the team?
BL: Everyone is just getting a solid workload done, getting the training done that the coaches have provided for us. I think when we get together as a team itís just about jelling and playing well together. Itís about getting time together as a group and leading up in the next 47 days it will be game time.
Youíre facing South Africa, Turkey, Spain, USA and Italy in the first round at the Paralympics, Who will be the biggest Challenge?
BL: USA is always a challenge for us; itís always a really hard competition against them. But playing against Italy, Spain and Turkey they can all play really well, and on their day theyíre great teams. South Africa is also good, but it shouldnít be too much of a problem. Our pool is going to be quite difficult, like I said Italy, Turkey, and Spain, USA, theyíre going to be really tough games.
You played on the 2010 World Championship Team that won Gold. How does the attitude and development of the team then compare to the team now?
BL: I think everyone stepped it up another level. The guys won in Beijing and they won the World Cup in 2010. Everyone just wants to be that little bit better to make the team that much better than everyone else in the World so when we hit the floor weíre the strongest team on the court and we can push for 40 minutes.
How does the team stay focused and confident heading into the Paralympics?
BL: Each game is its own game. We go into each game looking to win that. Each game plan will be a little bit different, but we just go out to get the job done. We play 40 minutes of Rollersí basketball and itís just about getting the job done on the day.
Youíll be playing Great Britain and Japan in the World Challenge coming up in Sydney. How will this prepare the Rollers for the Paralympics?
BL: Playing against Japan and Great Britain, theyíre great teams in the World. Against those two teams itís always a really good competition. Theyíre both strong internationally. So it will be a good test to see where weíre at and we can put into place different game plans and different things that we want to get done in the Paralympics. So we can prepare, we can play together, (have) more minutes as a team and get our combinations working properly.
What are going to be the biggest challenges you will face going up against Japan and Great Britain?
BL: Both teams have great players. Japan is great through their mids, so theyíll be a good team up the floor. Great Britain has got some great high pointers and mids as well so it will be very tough.
Coming out of the World Challenge, whatís going to be the main focus for you and for the team in the last couple of weeks heading into the Paralympics?
BL: These games will be a good test for us to show us where weíre at. Once we come out of the Rollers World Challenge itís just about everyone going back to their home city, getting their training done, getting ready, and everyone preparing and being ready for the Paralympics. Ready to hit the floor, ready to go, one of the strongest teams in the world.