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Buckley hosts AF basketball tryouts

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Players and coaches posed for a picture after practice at the men's Air Force basketball tryouts here Oct. 17. More than twenty Airmen are battling for 12 roster spots. The team's final exhibition game is Monday against the Fort Collins All-Stars. Final cuts will be made after the team breaks camp Wednesday. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Players and coaches posed for a picture after practice at the men's Air Force basketball tryouts here Oct. 17. More than twenty Airmen are battling for 12 roster spots. The team's final exhibition game is Monday against the Fort Collins All-Stars. Final cuts will be made after the team breaks camp Wednesday. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Basketball season is upon us again and for a lucky handful, so is a chance to play for the Air Force team.

Tryouts are under way at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., where 24 Airmen from bases around the globe came together for one thing: to play basketball for the United States Air Force.

Talent, sweat, heart and determination pour out of every individual trying out this year but that won't be all they need to make this team.

Assistant coach, Staff Sgt. Paul Mayberry, a crew chief for the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Charleston AFB, S.C. said, "When tryouts are taking place, we are looking for athleticism, skill level, the right attitude and most importantly how they will represent the Air Force."

John Bailey, the team's head coach, agreed.

"We look for outstanding Airmen that will set an example of the Air Force, their unit and the Armed Forces," said Mr. Bailey, a program manager at Robins AFB, Ga. "We want to make sure each player is projecting the right image."

There are a mixture of first-time players and veterans trying out this year, and although the first-timers may be younger and faster, it doesn't always come down to those factors when choosing a team. Coach Bailey believes the veterans have a little more understanding of the system, and therefore the team benefits because of their experience.

Among the veterans trying out this year is Tech. Sgt. William Griffith a crew chief with the 354th Maintenance Group at Eielson AFB, Alaska. He has played for the team for nine seasons and this is his 10th time trying out.

"This is a good team. There are some new guys, but we work hard and there are not too many that drag behind," he said. "We get a month off of work but we still work hard and we know that everyone is still working hard back home."

Captain Kurtis Darden, Reserve Services Officer for the 440th Services Squadron at Pope AFB, N.C., is also a veteran. This is his fourth year trying out for the team.

"So far, so good," said Capt. Darden when asked how practice was going. "There are new guys and old guys but we are all on the same page. It's all about the love of basketball and getting to know the other guys."

Only 12 of the 24 players will make the team. Within two weeks the Air Force team will be at full throttle. The decision of who makes the team comes down to the trainers, assistant coaches and ultimately the head coach. The staff may not always agree with each other but most times, majority rules.

"I don't like cutting people and very seldom do the first timers make it, but I listen to the advice of my staff," Coach Bailey said.

Captain Darden, who wasn't selected his first year trying out, said younger players shouldn't be discouraged if they don't make it this year.

"It's a program, maybe you are good enough but if you don't make it the first time, go back to your base, practice, stay positive and come back next year," he explained.

Anyone can apply to try out for the Air Force basketball team. Air Force basketball hopefuls can visit their base fitness center and ask for a Form 303 or download it from Air Force Publications. Applications must be signed by a unit commander before being sent to Air Force sports.
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