Giving his all for basketball

Leanne Cave

Nathan Gutierrez was born with spina bifida, a spinal condition that can confine one to a wheelchair. But Gutierrez was born with something that a wheelchair cannot hold back: a passion and love for the game of basketball.

Jan Stuebbe, Bakersfield College athletics director, said that Gutierrez is a person who never complains when asked to do something. He has a positive attitude and the desire to coach basketball.

The 19-year-old BC student uses that passion as a student assistant for the men’s basketball program. He keeps stats for the men and manages the clock for the women’s games when asked.

“There’s really only so much I can do, but I always try to provide encouragement and be there for them if they need to talk,” he said.

His mother, Tamara Gutierrez, said he’s always had a love for basketball.

“He knows the game like the back of his hand and that’s his ultimate desire, to one day be a coach at a higher level,” she said.

It all began at the age of 6, when Gutierrez and his family moved to Bakersfield.

Because of his love for basketball, he joined the Rolling Chariots, a wheelchair basketball team.

“I played shooting guard on the Rolling Chariots team,” Gutierrez said. “This is basically where I learned the game and decided that this is what I want to do in life. My dream is to become an NBA coach.”

According to Tamara Gutierrez, Rolling Chariots gave her son a feel for the game and taught him that he could fall out of the wheelchair and it was OK. He could be aggressive and the team would give him encouragement.

Gutierrez’s reputation as a player didn’t go unnoticed. While playing for the Chariots, he was contacted by the Fresno team that competes on the national level.

“I was the only one from Bakersfield to be chosen,” he said. “We were one of the top three teams in the state and we went to nationals in Illinois. We ended up eleventh in the nation.”

As a coach for North Bakersfield Parks & Recreation District, Gutierrez led his team to a championship.

“My first coaching job as a junior high coach taught me patience,” he said.

His mother said watching him coach made her proud.

“I can’t begin to tell you what it was like watching him coach,” she said.

“He was incredible the way he handled the players and his knowledge of the game was amazing.”

Gutierrez said that his mom and Dr. Chuck Wall, BC business professor, have been the greatest inspirations in his life.

“Dr. Wall has always encouraged me and has taught me that despite limitations, I can overcome them and accomplish anything I want to.”

Wall said that Gutierrez won’t let anything keep him from his goals.

“This is a young man that loves the game of basketball and he is not letting the fact that he has a disability hold him back,” he said. “He is not filtering life through a disability. Nathan is saying, ‘This is what I want and I’m going to do it anyway.’ He is a good student, also.”

When Gutierrez isn’t coaching, he likes to read.

“I like to read mysteries and basketball books,” he said. “About 90 percent of what I read is basketball.”

As a student, he maintains a 3.0 GPA and is majoring in business administration.

“Whatever he decides to do we will support Nathan,” his mother said. “We don’t think of Nathan’s disability as a problem or handicap, we think of it as a blessing.”