The All-Army men’s basketball team has finalized its roster and is finishing up its final week of practice before putting their work to the test.
The team will be competing in the Armed Forces Championship at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, which will run June 1-9.
Over the past three weeks, the All-Army team has been practicing at Abrams Physical Fitness Center, led by head coach Capt. Carl Little.
“I think we’ve got a great group of guys,” Little said of the roster. “Probably one of the deeper teams I’ve had as far as depth-wise. We’ve got to use the strength in numbers this year and that’s our plan. We’re going to play hard for 40 minutes (a game). ... Our goal is to dictate the tempo in every single game.”
When the camp started on May 10, there were 18 of the Army’s best basketball players invited to try out for the team’s 12-man roster. After weeks of practices and exhibition games, the final roster was set last Friday, giving the coaching staff a week to focus on the core 12 players.
The team also hosted a youth basketball clinic for Fort Hood’s kids.
Because of a smaller pool of players to choose from and working with a shorter trial camp period, the coaching staff had plenty to work through.
“(We had) a lot of adversity this year to overcome, so it’ll be sweeter once we win,” Little said.
The All-Army team is eyeing its third consecutive championship win at the Armed Services Championship, having won back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 (there was no tournament in 2018).
“I just think these guys are hungry (for the win),” Little said. “We’ve got six returners and six new individuals. I think this is the most returners we’ve had. Six, so half the team, have been part of the championship before. So, adding them with the new talented guys that we have, I think it’s going to be very beneficial this year.”
The team even had the opportunity to travel to Austin to spend some time with the coaching staff of the University of Texas men’s basketball team.
1st Lt. Mamadou Seck, from Fort Gordon, Georgia, is in his third year with the All-Army team. He said he feels this year’s team is even more prepared than previous years.
“We have more hybrid players who can play many positions,” he said. “I think we’re prepared. I think we’re ready to go.”
It’s been more than 30 years since the All-Army men’s basketball team has won three consecutive Armed Forces Championships. Being part of that legacy isn’t lost on the new guys, either.
“It would mean everything,” first-time team member 2nd Lt. Kennedy Edwards, from Fort Hood, said of the potential “three-peat.” “I think being part of that would be amazing because you’d go down in the history books.”
During these last few days of practice here at the Great Place, Little and his coaching staff are focused on preparing the team for the upcoming challenges and keeping the players healthy.
“Our goal is to always be able to come out and get a good start and maintain,” Little said. “During this time, it’s health, recovery and refining our offense and defense.”
Little, who has coached the All-Army team since 2013 will be stepping down as coach after this year’s tournament. Despite his deep connection with the team, he’s not worried about the team’s future.
“I’ve been taking every moment in and enjoying every moment so that these guys know that hey this is a once in a lifetime thing,” he said. “I just happen to be blessed to do this for six years, because most officers don’t get away as much as this. It’s bittersweet, but the program is going to be in good hands.”
As the defending two-time champions, the All-Army team will have a target on its back as it faces the All-Air Force, All-Navy and All-Marines teams next week.
Even with all that pressure, Little knows his team has what it takes to push them over the top against the competition.
“Heart, drive, determination and like I always say, coaching,” Little said. “I’ve been in this tournament a while. I’ve played in this tournament, I’ve coached in the tournament … we know what it’s going to take to win and we’re going to give these guys the tools to be successful. I think they’re ready. They won’t back down to anybody. And just whoever is facing us, they better come bring a lunch because we’re coming.”
After the Armed Forces Championships, the best players from among all four teams will be selected for All Armed Forces team, which will travel to Wuhan, China, in October for the 7th Conseil International du Sport Militaire Military World Games.
To follow the All-Army men’s basketball team, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AllArmyBasketball.
Tournament games will be livestreamed when available. Live streams will appear on the Armed Forces Sports YouTube page at www.youtube.com/user/USArmedForcesSports.