Osan, Kadena ready to battle for bragging rights
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Only one Pacific interservice basketball team, South Korea’s Osan Defenders, remains unbeaten. Gerry Barnes and his Kadena Falcons say they plan to do something about that.
Osan (31-0) and Kadena (24-2) appear to be the teams to beat in this week’s 4th Kadena Classic, set to start Friday with 12 men’s and four women’s teams from Japan, South Korea and Okinawa battling for Pacificwide bragging rights.
“It will be a clash of titans,” Barnes said of Kadena, which boasts All-Armed Forces veterans Kendric Green and Carl Little, and Osan, a surprise winner of the Korea Traveling League crown with only one similarly pedigreed player, Matt Wireman.
“They play well together, 12 to 15 guys willing to sacrifice self for the sake of the whole, and they go on to win their league. That says a lot for their players and coach,” Barnes said of Osan, the league regular-season and tournament champion.
The Defenders, fueled by rising backcourt stars Kenyatta Prince and James Williams, are the only team to have beaten Kadena this season, handing them two losses during Osan’s Pacificwide open holiday tournament in December. Wireman, who transferred to Scott Air Force Base, Ill. after that tournament, will fly to Okinawa to play one last time for the Defenders.
Coaching Osan is Tony Jones, holder of 11 KTL season and tournament titles, seven Christmas tournament crowns and twice a winner in the Kadena Classic.
“Very strange, we’re the only unbeaten team left. A lot of luck involved,” Jones said. “Good team play and luck. You need that to win championships.”
They’ll come up against a Falcons team loaded with veterans, including all-tournament returnees Bryan Simpson, Jarod Butler and David Proctor. Guard Romaine Hunter played for Osan last season before transferring to Kadena.
“We’re unbeaten on island,” Barnes said of his Falcons’ 20-0 record on Okinawa. “We’re not taking anything for granted, but we’re just as much a contender as anybody. Our approach is, we’re not going to lose. We have several players leaving. They’re hungry. They want a Pacific championship before they go.”
Jones expects his Defenders to experience “butterflies” early on in the tournament. “We’ll be playing teams we haven’t seen. That’s going to be a task,” he said. “But once we’re on the court a couple of times, we’ll be fine when we get it started.”
That’s not to say that Kadena and Osan will be the only teams scrapping for the title. Barnes said he feels “five or six” of the men’s teams could win it.
On the women’s side, the Okinawa Mystics, who won the Osan tournament with only five players, will be without the services of seven-time All-Armed Forces forward Evevetta Crawford and first-time All-Army tryout camp invitee Amoni Suttice; they’re preparing for the All-Armed Forces tournament which starts Saturday.
That makes the women’s field a “tossup,” Barnes said. “I’m looking for a very competitive tournament this year.”
4th Kadena Classic interservice basketball tournamentProponent: 18th Services Squadron Fitness & Sports.
Dates: March 9-15.
Site: Risner Fitness & Sports Complex, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Format: Single round-robin, 12 men’s teams divided into three pools of four each, four women’s teams in one pool, first four days. All four women’s teams, the three men’s pool winners and the next five with the best record regardless of division qualify for double-elimination playoffs, last four days.
Schedule: Men’s pool-play games start at 6:30 p.m. Friday, finish at 2 p.m. Monday; women’s pool-play games start at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, finish at 8 p.m. Monday. Double-elimination playoff games start at 4:30 p.m. Monday for men, 12:30 p.m. Tuesday for women. Championship games times and dates to be determined.
Men’s Pool A: Kadena Air Base, Okinawa (16-0 league, 24-2 overall, won Joint Military Athletic Conference regular-season and postseason tournament title); Camp Casey (Area I), South Korea (7-5, 25-11); Camp Humphreys (Area III), South Korea (6-8, 8-16); 1/1 Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Men’s Pool B: Osan Air Base, South Korea (13-0, 31-0, won Korea Traveling League regular-season and postseason tournament title); Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, Japan; Torii Station, Okinawa (4-12).
Men’s Pool C: Yokota Air Base, Japan; Yongsan Garrison, South Korea (13-3, 26-12); 3rd Marine Logistics Group, Okinawa (12-4, 17-9); Unified, Okinawa (8-8, 8-10).
Women’s Pool: Mystics, Okinawa; Camp Humphreys (Area III), South Korea (3-5, 9-9, won Korea Traveling League postseason tournament title); Yongsan Garrison, South Korea (2-4, 8-12); Camp Casey (Area I), South Korea (7-1, 8-5, won Korea Traveling League regular-season title).