Two from Robins play roles for Air Force basketball program

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78 ABW/PA
Twenty-six basketball players from across the Air Force will participate in an 18-day training camp with hopes of making the Air Force team and competing in the Armed Forces tournament.

John Bailey, an item manager for the C-17 Product Directorate at Robins, was selected as head coach of the team for the third consecutive season. His teams won the Armed Forces championship in each of the last two seasons, but the coach said this year might be a little tougher.

"Going for a three-peat is going to be very difficult," said Bailey, whose team was unbeaten in last year's tournament. "We are going into the tournament as a target and all the other teams will be trying to dethrone us."

Bailey said to win a third consecutive tournament, the team will have to be more focused than in past seasons. He plans to put the camp invitees through rigorous training to get them ready for the competition. "I need them in the best possible condition," he said.

Of the 26 players invited to training camp, only 12 will be selected to play in the Armed Forces tournament, which takes place March 18-29 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Penn.

One of those players will be Staff Sgt. Juan Vasquez, a crew chief in the 19th Air Refueling Group. Vasquez has been playing basketball all his life and has spent the last four years, while stationed at RAF Mildenhall, U.K., playing for the USAFE basketball team.

Although it's his first year competing at the Air Force training camp - a deployment kept him out of camp last year - Vasquez said his leadership skills experience will give him an advantage.

"I look forward to testing my skills against strong players," Vasquez said. "To make the team, I need to outwork and 'outhustle' the other players."

Making the team will be a challenge. Bailey said this could be the most talented group of players vying to make the team since he's been coach.

"Based on the talent, it could possibly be the strongest training camp we've ever assembled," he said.

Bailey and Vasquez, who both coach Robins Youth Center teams, are grateful for the strong support they've received from unit and base leadership and for the opportunity to participate in the Air Force sports program.