Special Olympics athletes ball out in Grand Prairie

GRAND PRAIRIE -- More than 1,000 special-needs athletes hit the hardwood at several Grand Prairie schools on Saturday as Special Olympics Texas' Greater Dallas region held a huge basketball tournament to qualify for this year's statewide Summer Games.

"There's a lot of great competition, a lot of great people here," said Marcus Billiard, a player for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Cyclones.  "It opens my eyes, just seeing everyone's different things and stuff like that.  I get to talk to them, I get to experience, I get to hear their stories, and you meet new people in the process."

The tournament featured 109 teams spread among 30 ability-based divisions.

"We have the biggest basketball participation in the state," says Alex Hubbard, the program director for Special Olympics Texas' Greater Dallas region, officially called Area 10.  "[This is] such a wonderful event for us.  Anytime we get a chance to put something on like this where we can get these guys and girls out here and let them compete and have fun, it's just a really awesome feeling to be a part of."

Participating in an area tournament is required to be eligible for the state tournament, however winning is not required to advance.  Hubbard says about 30 to 40 teams from the Greater Dallas area will be selected to compete at the Summer Games, which are scheduled for May 24-27 at UT Arlington.