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Billy Shanks of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing slips a pass between Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni defenders Jeremy Press (10) and Christopher Schmidt (24) during Friday's pool-play game in the 2009 Marine Corps Far East Regional Basketball Tournament at Camp Kinser, Okinawa. Wing beat Iwakuni 98-62 to secure the top spot in Saturday's single-elimination playoffs. Iwakuni fell to the fourth seed.

Billy Shanks of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing slips a pass between Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni defenders Jeremy Press (10) and Christopher Schmidt (24) during Friday's pool-play game in the 2009 Marine Corps Far East Regional Basketball Tournament at Camp Kinser, Okinawa. Wing beat Iwakuni 98-62 to secure the top spot in Saturday's single-elimination playoffs. Iwakuni fell to the fourth seed. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Billy Shanks of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing slips a pass between Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni defenders Jeremy Press (10) and Christopher Schmidt (24) during Friday's pool-play game in the 2009 Marine Corps Far East Regional Basketball Tournament at Camp Kinser, Okinawa. Wing beat Iwakuni 98-62 to secure the top spot in Saturday's single-elimination playoffs. Iwakuni fell to the fourth seed.

Billy Shanks of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing slips a pass between Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni defenders Jeremy Press (10) and Christopher Schmidt (24) during Friday's pool-play game in the 2009 Marine Corps Far East Regional Basketball Tournament at Camp Kinser, Okinawa. Wing beat Iwakuni 98-62 to secure the top spot in Saturday's single-elimination playoffs. Iwakuni fell to the fourth seed. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Tommy Bryan, right, of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni rebounds against 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as teammate Jason Scott (18) watches during Friday's pool-play game

Tommy Bryan, right, of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni rebounds against 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as teammate Jason Scott (18) watches during Friday's pool-play game (Dave Ornauer / Stripes)

Coach Rico Lee exhorts his 1st Marine Aircraft Wing charges to play stronger defense as they break the huddle following a timeout against Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni during Friday's pool-play game. Lee pulled double-duty during the tournament, as Wing coach, and also as All-Marine assistant coach, scouting for players who he feels merit invitation to the All-Marine tryout camp later this month at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Coach Rico Lee exhorts his 1st Marine Aircraft Wing charges to play stronger defense as they break the huddle following a timeout against Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni during Friday's pool-play game. Lee pulled double-duty during the tournament, as Wing coach, and also as All-Marine assistant coach, scouting for players who he feels merit invitation to the All-Marine tryout camp later this month at Camp Pendleton, Calif. ()

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — Rico Lee is wearing two hats in the Marine Corps Far East Regional Basketball Tournament.

Not only is he trying to coach 1st Marine Aircraft Wing to its third straight title, but as the All-Marine assistant coach, he also is scouting players from the other five teams for possible selection to the All-Marine tryout camp.

Lee, 32, played basketball at Eastern Arizona and Anne Arundel (Md.) community colleges before joining the Marines in 1998. He was selected as this year’s All-Marine assistant coach by head coach James Jones, a lieutenant colonel who had coached Lee at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

“He always told me I had a good head [for coaching], knowledge and work ethic,” said the staff sergeant from Annapolis, Md., who’s assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. “He thought I would be a good assistant.”

Lee said he was seeking players who do the “little things” that make teams successful, who possess the attitude and demeanor to not just play good ball but represent the Marine Corps.

“Anybody can put the ball in the hole; they wouldn’t be out here if they didn’t,” Lee said, so stats are the last thing he seeks.

“Heart, determination, drive, who’s contributing, who’s working hard, who wants to win more, fundamentals, doing the dirty work, diving after loose balls, that’s what I’m looking at,” he said.

When Lee’s evaluation is complete, he and the Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit staff, which oversee Far East regional tournaments, will select six players to attend the All-Marine tryout camp.

That’s scheduled for April 19 to May 9 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The All-Marine team will compete in the All-Armed Forces tournament May 10-18 at Naval Support Activity Mid-South at Millington, Tenn.

The All-Armed Forces team will then defend its International Military Sports Council (CISM) title June 3-16 at Klaipeda, Lithuania. Team USA won the CISM title for the first time in 10 years last May at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

“We want to keep the gold,” Lee said.

U.S. Naval Hospital fields female playerFor the first time in six years, a woman has played in a Marine Corps Far East Regional Tournament.

Amanda Saenz, 23, a hospitalman working in the U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester primary operating room, suited up as a backup point guard. She’s from Whittier, Calif., where she played for La Serna High and later for Rio Hondo Community College.

Saenz joined the Navy two years ago, her first time to live away from Richard Nixon’s birthplace, she said.

Asked if she felt intimidated by being the only woman in the tournament and playing against men, she said: “Not at all. I’ve done it before.”

From 2004-08, women were barred from playing in Far East regional tournaments because they could not be sent to All-Marine men’s camps. That was rescinded in 2009, Semper Fit officials said, because there’s no equivalent women’s regional tournament program.

Before Saenz, the last woman to play in a Far East regional tournament was Rachelle Smith, who pitched for Hospital in 2003 — the last year any Hospital team won a Far East Regional Tournament game of any kind.

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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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