Hoop dreams
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Head coach Lemija “Meha” Allen, right, 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, gives directions to a team hopeful during tryouts for the upcoming exhibition basketball team against the Seattle Super Hawks professional basketball team Feb. 25. (Photo Credit: Pamela Sleezer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
Hoop dreams
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Head coach Lemija “Meha” Allen, second from left, 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, looks on as a player executes a layup during tryouts for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord team that will face off against the Seattle Super Hawks Feb. 25. (Photo Credit: Pamela Sleezer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Joint Base Lewis-McChord service members joined forces to create what they hope will be a basketball team worthy of defeating the Seattle Super Hawks in an exhibition game Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. at the Soldier Field House on Lewis Main. The Super Hawks are a new, professional basketball team playing in The Basketball League.

Hopeful players showed off their skills during tryouts Feb. 9-10, hoping to impress Head coach, Lemija “Meha” Allen, with the 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, before he made final cuts and put the finishing touches to his roster.

Team hopeful, Luis Culebro, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, took a moment to catch his breath between practicing layups.

“This is tough, for sure,” Culebro said. “I know I have some places to improve on, and I’m trying to work on that.”

All-Army women’s basketball player Armani Walker, 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion at JBLM, was in the bleachers at the Wilson Sports and Fitness Center to watch the first night of tryouts, and she admired the efforts of the players as Allen ran them through drills.

“He (Allen) doesn’t play around, but I think there’s some potential here,” Walker said. “He’ll get them ready.”

After making his cuts, Allen now turns his attention to bringing his selected players together as a team in preparation to take on the TBL professional basketball team. He admits practice sessions might seem “intense” as he runs players through their drills, but he said his passion comes from good intentions.

“I might seem a little intense during tryouts and training, but I feel that I owe it to these players,” Allen said. “I spend about three weeks planning and putting together drills and exercises before tryouts even begin. I believe it brings a level of confidence to come into the situation prepared and serious because that is what I expect of them.”

Putting together a JBLM basketball program has been a labor of love for Allen. Allen spearheaded efforts to introduce a sports program after arriving at JBLM in February 2020. He was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the support of fellow leaders, including Antonio Pate, he was able to get the program up and running in March 2021. With the military no longer funding varsity sports programs, Allen chose to financially support the program out of his own pocket.

“This is very important to me because basketball is what kept me in the Army, and I know first-hand the positive effects it can have on a Soldier,” Allen said.

The JBLM team will consist of 14 players, coached by Allen and James Rahaem, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). Here’s the team roster.

- Kenneth Blackwell, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division

- Antonio Brock, 13th CSSB

- Mark Christmas, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade

- Randall James, 593rd Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command

- Alex King, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th FA Bde.

- Joe Macaulay, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Bde. 2nd Inf. Div

- Jaelen Manning, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division

- Edward Middleton, 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), 555th Engineer Brigade

- Dmarkis Neal, 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Bde. 2nd Inf. Div.

- Denzel Taylor, 593rd HHC, 593rd ESC

- Aaron Tocabens, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station

- Christian Ulmar, 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Inf. Div.

- Cameron Washington, 1-37 Inf.

- Eric White, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps

The game is open and free to watch for anyone with base access.