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U.S. Men's Basketball Team Wins SHAPE Tournament

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2004 – The United States won the gold medal in the 41st Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Basketball Tournament that ended Dec. 5 in Mons, Belgium.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Gen. James Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, poses with the U.S. Armed Forces Team that won its 41st SHAPE Tournament Dec. 5.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Conducted every year since 1960, except in 1967 and 1992-1994, this tournament has involved the best military basketball players from participating nations.

Team Captain Eddie Goad (Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.) played a key role in the formation of the 2004 U.S. Team, identifying prospective players and negotiating with commanders on player release for training camp and the tournament.

During its brief training camp at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the team went Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Medical Transition Detachment to visit patients. Team members personally purchased and donated 20 DVDs to the hospital's day room.

The visit furthered the team's resolve, with all members dedicating themselves to fellow service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We owe nothing less than our maximum effort to these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines we want to win this for them," said Coach Babejohn Kwasinak (Prairie Village, Kan.).

The U.S. Armed Forces Team defeated the United Kingdom 107-71 in the first game. Sgt. Eric Draper (Fort Richardson, Alaska) led the team in scoring with 26 points, shooting 11 of 20 from the field. 1st Lt. Corey Nelson (Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.) added 15 points and 11 rebounds, while 1st Lt. Travis Cantrell (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio) and Staff Sgt. William Griffith (Hill Air Force Base, Utah) contributed 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Perennial Armed Forces player Sgt. Craig Marcelin (Schweizengen, Germany) had six steals and nine rebounds in this game.

Draper led the team in scoring in the second game against the Czech Republic, with 38 points (11 of 18 from the field, to include 10 of 15 from behind the international three point line).

Nelson and Spc. Ronald Bartley (Army MP Unit in Yongsan, South Korea) each added 11 points, while 2nd Lt. Thomas Bellairs (Los Angeles Air Force Base) scored 10.

Price led the team in rebounds with 11, while Nelson and 2nd Lt. Tysen Pina (Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.) each had 8.

2nd Lieutenant Lucas Lecour (Fort Sill, Okla.) dished out 11 assists, while Bradley doled out 9 in this game.

Marcelin again played a sparkling defensive game, winding up with five stolen balls, in this 115-72 point victory.

Draper also was the leading scorer with 21 in the United States' third game, against Canada. Nelson had 14, while Cantrell had 11 and Lucas Lecour (Fort Sill, Oklahoma) scored 10. The United States won this game 100-58, advancing to the final game of pool play against Lithuania, which would determine who would play for the gold medal in the finals.

The two teams had split two and two in their four previous battles in international play (2003 World Military Games in Sicily and the 2004 World Military Basketball Championship in Croatia).

The game against Lithuania was hard-fought, with the United States down by six points after the first quarter. The team came back to tie the game at 44-44 at the half, behind the tenacious defense of Lecour (four steals and 13 points) and Marcelin (12 rebounds, three steals, and 19 total points).

Bellairs once again was big on the boards, garnering six of the offensive boards and another six on the defensive end of the court. Bartley's two-pronged attack of scoring and assists resulted in scoring most of his 12 points in the crucial minutes of the first quarter.

Draper again was the leading scorer for the United States with 30 points, leading to a final score of USA 94, Lithuania 87.

The final game of the tournament was against Italy. This was to be an extremely tough game, with Italy and its three 7-foot basketball players the consensus favorite.

Nelson, who went down with an ankle sprain in the first half of the game against Lithuania, was among many key players in this game.

Because of the significant size difference, the United States used a harassing press to take control of the game from the tip-off, jumping to an impressive 9- 0 lead. This intensity continued with the United States controlling the game for a dramatic 107-70 gold medal win.

Kwasniak felt the only way for the United States to prevail in this game was to turn the event into a track meet. The team wound up with 15 steals, four by Lecour and three by Marcelin and Draper. The 6-foot-6-inch Bellairs out- positioned the taller Italian players and ended up with 17 total rebounds.

Nelson, who had a dramatic dunk over a 7-foot-1-inch Italian during a run in the third quarter, contributed eight rebounds, while Marcelin had seven.

Draper was 8 for 11 from behind the three-point line, winding up with 38 total points.

Other double-digit scores were Bartley, Cantrell and Nelson, each with 11. Those sharing the ball were Bartley with seven assists, Lecour with 6, and 1st Lt. Michael Roy (Robins Air Force Base, Ga.) with three.

Final team standings were United States, followed by Italy, Turkey, the Czech republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Army Europe, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Canada.

Coach Kwasniak was very pleased with this year's team. Each player fully accepted his role on the team.

"We have had more individual talent on some of our teams from the past," he said, "but this year we had a complete roster of players who sincerely did not care who scored or who got the credit let's just win the game!"

Assistant Coach John Bailey (Robins Air Force Base, Ga.) further echoed, "Our team was selfless and committed, we demonstrated ultimate teamwork and it really paid off for us."

Draper was the leading scorer for the tournament, averaging 30.6 points per game, and received the Scorer's Award at the final ceremony.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe Marine Gen. James L. Jones told the team that he was more proud of how the team had won, rather than the fact that it had won.

"I thought you represented all United States service men and women in the proudest fashion," Jones said.

(Based on a release.)

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Related Sites:
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

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