The military’s March Madness comes in April, and it will be on display in Colorado Springs.
The Military Basketball Association will bring more than two dozen teams from U.S. bases to compete for men’s and women’s crowns during a tournament next month set for Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.
Sponsored by the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, the three days of basketball starting April 12 will include teams from across the armed services in a tradition that dates back decade, but withered during 17 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The whole weekend up there will be a lot of fun,” pledged Doug Harris, who heads the Army association.
For years, military bases have fielded teams in sports of every nature. But with wartime demands, troops went from shooting three-pointers to shooting enemy targets.
Harris said with deployment demands easing, sports are making a comeback at bases, led by basketball, which fields smaller teams and has rock-bottom equipment costs.
It’s a way for troops to acclimate to being home and shed the stress of war with a few hours at play, Harris said.
But hoops have a combat purpose, too, he said. Teams build camaraderie and meld groups of men and women into a strong force for accomplishing a task — traits that are essential in combat.
The Clune Arena tournament is organized by the Colorado Springs-based Military Basketball Association, a nonprofit that helps defray costs in the absence of government money and pulls together leagues.
The sport has some deep roots in military history. During World War II, famed UCLA coach John Wooden coached teams for the Navy.
NBA Hall of Fame inductee Elgin Baylor scored 38 points per game with the Lakers while still in the Army Reserve.
The Air Force has its own hall-of-famer in Bill Bradley, who served in the Reserve ranks while hoisting two title trophies with the New York Knicks.
Putting those hoop dreams on the court in Colorado Springs, though, still requires financial backing. Harris is hunting for tournament sponsors.
To learn more, visit www.ausappc.org
Tournament schedules are still being set. To learn more, stop by the Military Basketball Association’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/militarybasketballassociation.
Harris is hoping for big crowds to root for the troops, no matter who wins.
“If you care about troops and their families, you have to care about supporting this kind of event,” he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx