KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Kadena Klassic is growing.

In its third year of existence, the Pacificwide basketball tournament this weekend will welcome post-level teams from Japan, South Korea and Okinawa — six men’s and four women’s teams from off-island in the 15-team field — in what organizers hope will become the region’s premier interservice event to end the season.

Gratifying organizers the most is that every team entered in the four- to six-day event represents a base or a command. No open teams with commercial sponsors, nor company-level or intramural teams, are to be found.

“Credibility” is the main reason why organizers insisted on post-level teams, said Gerrard Barnes, Kadena’s Risner Fitness & Sports Complex director.

“It gives the program prestige, a varsity sports identity,” said Barnes, 54, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant and a former three-time Pacific Air Forces command tournament champion coach.

Helping to designate potential stars from all Armed Forces branches for selection to their respective All-Service tryout camps is made easier when a player represents “Camp Swampy” instead of “Al’s Plumbing,” Barnes said.

“You want players you plan to send off to camp and teams to represent their bases in a professional manner,” Barnes said, adding that each has to “play the part” when carrying a base team’s guidon. “The quality and professionalism of teams and players is different,” he contended, than from playing for an open team.

“It’s a good thing,” said tournament director Jason Vandenberg, “and hopefully it won’t be the last time.”

He hopes the same will be the case in the 12th Kadena Klassic softball tournament in October and the Kadena Kup soccer tournament in April, he added, saying, “We’re working on that.”

Vandenberg and Barnes said they’re also hoping a successful tournament this weekend will help their effort to expand both softball and soccer tournaments and perhaps add a Pacificwide open volleyball tournament to 18th Services’ sports programs.

“That would really put Kadena on the map,” said Barnes, who coached teams from Korea and Guam in the PACAF command tournament circuit until budget cuts brought its demise in 1991.

This year’s Klassic opens Friday with two days of round-robin play, followed by double-elimination playoffs that could last for just two days or up to four, depending on the progress of 2nd Infantry Division teams from South Korea.

They must depart Okinawa on Tuesday. Barnes said if either Warriors men’s or women’s team reaches the championship, the tournament will end Monday; otherwise, it could continue as late as Wednesday.

“We’re trying to accommodate,” he said, adding that the schedule “is going to change.”

Until November, Barnes held a similar post at the Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Complex at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base. But he insisted he has not moved his former tournament, Andersen’s March Madness Invitational, to Kadena with him.

“It just so happens they’re not doing it this year,” said Barnes of March Madness, which was canceled in 2006 due to mission requirements at Andersen.

3rd Kadena Klassic Open Basketball Tournament

Proponent: 18th Services Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Dates: March 3-8, 2006.

Host sites: Risner Fitness & Sports Complex, O’Connor Gym and Nakayoshi Gym (formerly Falcon Gym), Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Format: Combined round-robin/double-elimination. Ten men’s teams, two pools of five teams each, top three in each pool qualify for double-elimination playoffs; five women’s teams in one pool, top four qualify for double-elimination playoffs.

Schedule of events: Opening ceremony noon Friday. First round-robin games 1 p.m. Friday. Last round-robin games 8 p.m. Saturday. Playoffs begin at 10 a.m. Sunday. Championship games tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. for women and 6 p.m. for men on Monday, with second “if necessary” games to follow at 6 p.m. for women and 10 p.m. for men Monday. NOTE: Playoffs may be extended to Wednesday if 2nd Infantry Division Warriors, who must depart on Tuesday, do not reach championship game(s).

Who’s coming: Men, Kunsan Air Base, Osan Air Base, Yongsan Garrison, 2nd Infantry Division and Camp Humphreys, South Korea; Camp Foster, Camp Kinser, Kadena Air Base and Torii Station, Okinawa; Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Women, Kunsan Air Base, Camp Humphreys, 2nd Infantry Division and Yongsan Garrison, South Korea; Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Awards: Team trophies to top four men’s and top three women’s teams. Individual awards to players on champion and runner-up teams. MVPs. All-tournament teams, 20 men’s selections, 10 women’s selections. All-tournament coaches. Best defensive five, best offensive five.

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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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