Competition high, decision making difficult in All-AF team tryouts

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The main gym at the Robins Fitness Center will see some high-level basketball action on Monday.

The All-Air Force men's basketball team, which is having its tryout camp at Robins, will play an exhibition game with the All-Army team. The game starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free.

The two teams are competing in preparation for the upcoming Armed Forces tournament in Millington, Tenn. The Air Force will try for an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship against teams from the Army, Navy and Marines.

Head coach John Bailey, a Robins employee, said basketball fans should make a stop at the Fitness Center for Monday's game.

"They will get a chance to see college-level competition," he said. "It's almost like watching part of the Armed Forces tournament."

The camp started April 17 with Airmen from around the world coming to Robins to try to make the team. A record 30 Airmen came to the camp this year, and on Tuesday the first cut was made, taking the roster to 18. A team of 12 will go to the tournament.

Five Robins Airmen started the camp, and after Tuesday's cuts that was down to four. Tech Sgt. Juan Vasquez of the 116th Air Control Wing was cut, but he said his disappointment was tempered by the high level of competition. He even returned the same night to assist with the practice.

"The skill level is very high," he said. "It shows how good everybody is getting."

Another Robins player trying out for the team is Capt. Tysen Pina of the 116th ACW. He is a former Air Force Academy player and last played on the All-Air Force team in 2006. He hasn't been able to try out for the past two because he has been deployed.

He said the level of play in the tournament is "quite comparable" to college basketball. He also said that although the Armed Forces tournament isn't televised, to the players it is just as important as the games between the military colleges.

"To us, when you look over and see the Army or the Navy, nobody wants to lose," he said. "We are constantly deploying together and everyone wants bragging rights."

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Bachelor, one of the team captains, is stationed at Hurlburt Field in Florida. He will deploy to Iraq right after the tournament.

"It's a good chance to represent the Air Force," he said. "The talent level is always good and this year we've got a lot of veterans."

The Army team is holding its camp at Fort Benning in Columbus. The two teams will also meet at Fort Benning on April 30.

Bailey, who is in his fifth consecutive year as head coach, said he is pleased with what he has seen in camp thus far, and making the final cuts will require some tough decisions.

"This has been the most competitive camp I've ever had," he said.

According to Bailey, this is the first All-Air Force team in which all of the staff has come from the same base. Assistant coach Jeff McClain and project officer Eddie Goad are both Robins employees. All of the coaches are civilians, but only active-duty Airmen can play on the team.

The squad will be cut to 12 by the end of next week. Then after a final week of practice here they will head to Millington for the tournament, which will be May 11-18.