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CLINE: A team we can all root for

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

IF YOU GO

What: Wounded Warriors Amputee celebrity basketball game

When: Friday, April 5, 5-8 p.m.

Where: Peachtree Ridge High School

Cost: $20 for adults, $10 for kids; K-6 free

More info: WoundedWarriorSoftballTeam.org

March Madness has officially begun this week, with NCAA basketball fans across the country filling out brackets that they hope will lead their favorite team to Atlanta for the Final Four. While we'll have to wait for the next two weeks to find out who the fortunate four will be, we already know one team that is coming to the area. And it's one we can all root for.

On Friday, April 5, the Wounded Warriors Amputee team will play an exhibition at Peachtree Ridge High School against an all-star team of former NBA, NFL and Atlanta area players. The event, which is more of a celebration than an outright game, is designed to raise money and awareness for wounded soldiers.

The Wounded Warriors have played many softball exhibitions and have gone up against former NFL stars in flag football at each of the last two Super Bowls, but this will be their first basketball game. The event, which begins at 5 and runs until 8 p.m., will include some scrimmaging but will also allow for attendees to match their skills against the warriors and former pros in different skill competitions.

There will also be raffle prizes and plenty of time for autographs, and organizers encourage attendees to bring items to be signed.

"This is going to be an interactive event. Fans will get to participate and we encourage your kids to wear their sneakers," said Chris Visser, a volunteer publicist for the Wounded Warriors team. "This is more of a jamboree than an actual exhibition. This is really about an evening of activities."

Former University of Georgia basketball coach Hugh Durham will be the Wounded Warriors honorary coach and will be joined by multiple members of his 1983 team, the lone Bulldogs squad to ever make the Final Four. Former NBA star Dale Ellis will also participate as will NBA Hall of Famers Artis Gilmore and Dave Cowens. Local product Cameron Heyward, a Peachtree Ridge grad now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, will also help host the event at the gym where he once starred.

Visser, whose sister Lesley is a CBS announcer, owns a sports marketing firm and will be in town working with a radio station for the Final Four. He said this event is a chance for locals to feel like part of the big sports weekend while getting an up-close look at how the Wounded Warriors team excels and inspires.

"The entire ethos of this team is that a loss of a limb doesn't mean the loss of an athletic career," Visser said. "These kids were all high school athletes before they enlisted in the service. And they can play. Let's put it this way: They've won both times they played former NFL stars in flag football at the Super Bowl.

"This is the type of event that you can't leave without feeling inspired."

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.