Two Marines on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune have been selected as coaches for All-Marine basketball teams.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Gibson was selected as the head coach for the All-Marine women’s basketball team, while Gunnery Sgt. Jelani A. Nix was picked to be an assistant coach for the All-Marine men’s basketball team.
“I was super excited. It’s been something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Gibson said.
The selection to be the women’s head coach is Gibson’s first.
“There’s an application process, and everybody submits yearly,” Gibson said. “Usually the coach from the previous year is the returning coach. Normally, they try to give a coach three years to try to establish some sort of rhythm and system. The gentleman who coached last year was unable to coach this year, so I submitted my application, and I was selected.”
Gibson said basketball can help the players become better Marines.
“Basketball and being a Marine are closely related,” Gibson said. “The things you learn from basketball are how to be a team player and how to project leadership, and I think that transitions from basketball. When you have young Marines coming up, they get that level of discipline. They still get that interaction from senior leadership that helps them be a better Marine.”
Gibson said he is looking for players who enjoy competition.
“You have to have a will to compete. This is competing at the all-armed forces level,” Gibson said. “Marines think they do well at intramural sports and do well in recreational sports, but it doesn’t relate to the big game. It takes somebody who has an insatiable appetite to compete and to win. … There’s a difference between being an athlete and being a warrior, but when you have an athletic warrior, you’ve got something special, and I think that’s what we have inside our Marines.”
Tryouts for the team run from May 13 to May 27 in Quantico, Virginia. Once the team is selected, competition in the armed forces tournament follows from May 28 to June 5 in Jacksonville, Florida.
“A couple of the women competing this year were collegiate ballplayers,” Gibson said.
Gibson works as a distribution management specialist, G-4, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He grew up in Philadelphia.
“I’ve liked basketball from an early age,” Gibson said. “Growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, that’s all that we played,” Gibson said. “It gives you a competitive spirit. It teaches you how to be a better teammate, and ultimately it led me to be who I am today, being a Marine.”
Gibson joined the Marine Corps in 1996 and was nominated in 1998 for the All-Marine basketball team but turned it down because of prior commitments to the Marine Corps. He continued his involvement in basketball as he rose through the ranks and currently serves as coach of the Camp Lejeune basketball team.
“Coaching the Marines of Camp Lejeune has been a tremendous privilege and an honor,” Gibson said. “We have a high-level group of individuals on the team. It’s just given me a great sense of pride to work with guys who share the same interests as I do.”
Nix was as equally excited about his selection to be an assistant coach for the men’s team.
“It feels good. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do,” Nix said. “It was on my bucket list. I did it back in 2012 as an assistant coach as well. I haven’t been able to be the head coach yet, but just to be a part of the program is great. That’s the big thing. I wanted to be a part of the program, so I can help the Marine Corps win gold again.”
Nix said he would instill in the players during tryouts the team’s mission.
“The goal is to win the gold for the Marine Corps. That’s the big thing,” Nix said. “The Marine Corps has won the gold just three times before. We want to make this year No. 4.”
Nix said basketball can be important for any Marine.
“It’s something for us to do in our down time,” Nix said. “We work hard, but we play hard. When we get done with our jobs, it gives us something else to do in our off time to blow off some steam, to decompress, but to still keep that competitive spirit.”
Nix said he can relate to the players on the All-Marine team. After all, he played as a member of the team in 2000.
“It helps build camaraderie,” Nix said. “I think it’s very good at building the leadership of Marines because you have to compete as a team. It teaches team-building and with getting the guidance from senior Marines. When I first came in and I played, it was senior Marines that were all around me to help me and assist with my career. To this day, I have them to thank.”
Matthew Sokol contributed to this story.