Osan Defenders looking for clean Pacific sweep at King tournament
The Osan Defenders men’s team from South Korea will attempt to become the first team to win all three major Pacificwide basketball invitationals in one season in this week’s Martin Luther King Invitational at Camp Foster, Okinawa.
The Defenders have won four straight tournaments since winning the March Madness Invitational last March at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.
They continued their run by capturing the Korea Traveling League pre-season tournament in November. Last month, in a one-week span, the Defenders took their own Pacificwide Invitational, then the Taegu Christmas Tournament.
Their next hurdle is the Martin Luther King Tournament, in which they finished second a year ago to two-time champion Down Town of Okinawa.
With just seven players, the Defenders fell 104-90 in the 2002 final last Jan. 21.
“It felt bad,” Defenders coach Tony Jones said. “I was proud of the guys the way they performed short-handed. If we had had a couple more players, we would have done better.”
The Defenders will have 10 players at Camp Foster.
According to assistant coach Dietrick Glover, the Defenders plan to have five players come in for the start of play Thursday, then hope that five more will arrive in time for Friday’s second-day games.
“We’ll be good to go,” said Glover, who suited up for the Defenders last January. “Hopefully, we can step it up this time.”
With many of Down Town’s key players having transferred in the past year, and others playing for different teams on Okinawa, the Defenders inherit the mantle of “team to beat” as the 12th MLK tournament begins.
“They’re up for the challenge,” Osan athletic director Tony Mason said of the potential sweep. “They’re going full out after this.”
The Yongsan Lady Rebels, also of South Korea, will attempt to capture their sixth straight MLK title.
Nine of the 25 teams in the field are from outside of Okinawa, 11 are base varsity teams, 11 are open teams. The girls and boys teams from Kadena and Kubasaki high schools on Okinawa also are entered.
Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Foster Field House. Round-robin pool play begins at 6 p.m. with 15 games, followed by 18 starting at 5 p.m. Friday and up to 30 beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Preceding the double-elimination playoffs Saturday evening will be the three-point shootout and slam-dunk competitions — which historically have attracted the largest crowds.
The top three teams in each pool qualify for the playoffs, which will begin at a time to be determined Sunday, with the championship games scheduled for Monday afternoon.