The Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune basketball team hoisted the championship trophy after the 24th annual Capital Classic at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Virginia, Feb. 15 to 17.
Camp Lejeune defeated an Army team from Fort Carson, Colorado 92-58 in the championship game.
“It felt good, and it is the first time in a few years since we have won that tournament,” said Sgt. Austin Brown, the center on the team. “We are doing better than expected after losing a lot of players last year. We are the underdogs this year.”
The team is composed of mostly Marines and two Sailors, Thomas Hayes and Hospitalman Te’Kevin Boston.
The squad includes members from Marine Corps Air Station New River, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, MCB Camp Lejeune and Camp Geiger.
Lejeune also defeated Fort Bliss 86-70 and Joint Base Myer-Henderson 80-70 during the tournament.
Lejeune (17-7) sits in third place in the eight-team Atlantic Coastal Military Basketball Conference (ACMBC) after going 3-1 last weekend. The conference falls under the Military Basketball League.
Last year, the team had a couple of second-place finishes in tournaments in San Antonio, Texas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Participating on our basketball team gives the Marines an opportunity to embark in something in their own time that [brings out] camaraderie,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jelani Nix, one of the team’s coaches. “We teach the players how to be [better] men, Marines and family members. We don’t just run up and down the court playing basketball.”
The other two coaches for Lejeune are Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Gibson and Marvin Seldon, a retired first sergeant.
“We uphold and push the standards, giving the players everything they would need to be successful Marines and successful human beings,” Nix said. “Leadership is there for growth, and these guys come from different backgrounds.”
Nix joined the team last summer, bringing his style of coaching.
“The [relationship between coaches and players] is a two-way thing,” Nix said. “To teach, you have to be able to communicate. When you communicate, then you learn through listening. I ask the players if they listen, and then I listen to them. It goes both ways when you are coaching or playing with different personalities. It is a constant learning process, and we have to find one that makes this team work, creating one cohesive unit.”
Sgt. DeJuan Isaiah, a shooting guard, is a two-time All-Marine basketball player.
“On and off the court, it is important to teach the junior Marines,” Isaiah said. “We are always a Marine first. With that, they look up to us just like I look up to our coach, Gunnery Sgt. Nix.”
Isaiah was selected to compete in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) International Basketball Tournament later this year in Belgium.
“For Sgt. Isaiah, he has been a two-time All-Marine basketball player and was selected for the all-USA team,” said Nix. “One of the things we also try to do is develop players for the All-Marine team.”
The team is scheduled to travel to Florida March 9 for the ACMBC championship, followed by Military Basketball Association tournaments in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 12 and in San Antonio, Texas on April 26.
For more information on the Camp Lejeune basketball team, visit www.facebook.com/camplejeunebasketball/