Norlina native Stephanie Wheeler celebrates after coaching Team USA to the women’s wheelchair basketball gold medal at the 2016 Paralympics, one of many achievements so far in her career as Team USA’s coach.


Norlina native Stephanie Wheeler has been named among the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s 2018 class, which will be inducted during a ceremony in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.

Wheeler and the rest of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, Mike Frogley, Chuck Gill, Ron Lykins and Jason Van Beek, are described by the NWBA website as “a younger generation of inductees who are responsible for transforming the game into what it is today.”

Last year, Wheeler was inducted in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

When she was a child, an automobile accident left Wheeler paralyzed from the waist down. With characteristic determination, she learned to adjust, going wherever she needed in a wheelchair, and has never slowed down.

Wheeler graduated from Warren County High School and the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign, helping the Fighting Illini win three women’s wheelchair basketball national championships.

She continued to play wheelchair basketball while she pursued a master’s degree in adapted sport education for the University in Alabama, graduating in 2007 with a 4.0 grade point average. While there, Wheeler served as a graduate assistant, teaching activity classes, and as assistant coach of the Crimson Tide women’s wheelchair basketball team.

She returned to her alma mater, Illinois, in 2009 and became head coach of the women’s wheelchair basketball team. Wheeler is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in adapted physical education there.

Wheeler’s determination on the basketball court has led to success at the international level as both a player and coach. She was a member of the United States women’s wheelchair basketball teams who won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics Games.

As head coach of the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team, she led her players to the gold medal in the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games and coached Team USA to the gold medal in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janiero with a victory over defending Paralympics champion Germany. 

The NWBA website describes Wheeler as “the epitome of the athlete-turned-coach” and “a key person in the growth of the women’s game in the United States.”

NWBA Hall of Fame Chairman Frank Burns will oversee the induction ceremony, which will be held in conjunction with the 70th Annual National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament this weekend.