CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — No fear.

That’s the attitude 12-year-old Malik Major takes as the youngest basketball player in the 13th Martin Luther King tournament.

At 5 feet 6 and 112 pounds, he’s been the last player off the bench for Camp Courtney’s Youngbloodz, coached by his father, Corey.

The seventh-grader at Lester Middle School, who first picked up a basketball at the age of 2, was averaging three points per game coming into Saturday, when he entered the tournament’s three-point shootout.

He finished third, then scored 11 points in the Youngbloodz’ 95-42 victory over the Wing Warriors.

Why allow a youngster to play in a men’s tournament?

“That kid has played in three of our tournaments on-island,” said Corey Carter of Foster athletics. “He’s a tough kid, actually. We had no problem letting him in. He’s excellent. He’s surprised a lot of the players here.”

“He has the heart of a champion already,” said Kadena Falcons coach Kevel Ellies. “A young man trying to be the best he can be, bringing it all to the table, no matter who he’s playing. I like that.”

“He’s in the gym, playing against the big boys all the time,” said Corey Major, a Marine Corps staff sergeant, adding that he’s known as “Malik’s dad.”

“He doesn’t care who he plays against. He has such a love of the game, reading books, studying the game, knowing the game.”

Malik, a native of Savannah, Ga., is already talking about playing for Georgia Tech and says Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is his favorite player. “He has no fear, either,” Malik said.

Camp Casey Warriors making ‘remarkable’ strides

It was a struggle for the Camp Casey Runnin’ Warriors of South Korea just to make it to the tournament, let alone win three games and qualify for the playoffs.

The collection of 11 players, gleaned from the seven teams in the 2nd Infantry Division Warrior League, spent four days trying to fly Space-Available out of Osan Air Base. Four players arrived on Wednesday and the rest on Friday.

If not for the help of players Deron Hudson and Melvin Haley, from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, “we might have had to forfeit” the first two games Wednesday, Warriors coach Tony Reed said.

They lost those games anyway but rebounded to take the next three by an average margin of 46 points. They appear poised to go deep into the playoffs.

“It’s all about mission,” Reed said. “When these guys set their mind to something, they do it.”

The team had not played a game together before MLK. Its players are stationed minutes from Korea’s Demilitarized Zone and spend as many as 60 days off their home bases during field maneuvers.

“This is a luxury for most of these guys,” Reed said. “This was entirely player-coordinated. They funded their own food, lodging, everything. What they’re doing here is remarkable.

“Each of these guys have played against each other, they know how each other plays. That’s an advantage. The group has gelled and developed some bonds. This is something they’ll all remember.”

Hudson and Haley flew to Okinawa as “hired guns,” since Andersen didn’t enter a men’s squad. Upon arrival Wednesday, they offered their services to any team, and the Warriors gladly welcomed them.

“They allowed us to come play for them, and we’ve gelled pretty well,” Hudson said. “That makes us feel good.”

Prep girls advance in playoffs

For the first time, both the Kadena and Kubasaki High School girls teams advanced to the second round of the double-elimination playoffs. Each team had advanced in previous tournaments, but never both.

The Lady Panthers beat the Torii Matriarchs 73-63, while the Lady Dragons dispatched the Kadena Falcons 55-41 on Saturday.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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