The hoops squad from the Battery A Second of the 114th Strike National Guard unit in Columbus may have lost its first game handily Saturday, but they”ll win in the end.
A team of local guardsmen participated in Hoops for the Troops basketball tournament Saturday at the Columbus High School gymnasium. The fundraiser was organized by Walmart to raise $5,000 for the Family Readiness Group fund that supports the local Guard”s families when they”re deployed.
In all, 11 teams paid the $150 sign-up fee and the concession stand was buzzing Saturday afternoon, although the tourney would run into the night. Ernest Robinson, store manager for the Columbus Walmart, said all the proceeds would go to the Guard. But Walmart also served up raffle ticket items, including a laptop computer and flat screen television, to thank the fans and supporters who came out.
As for the Guard”s team, they took a tough first loss in the double-elimination tournament. But that was at the hands of a team that”s been playing together for a while. And the Guard squad?
“We didn”t prepare at all. We just showed up for drills,” said Spc. Chase Hogue of New Hope.
The Guard unit team had a little bit of cohesion. Spc. Ricardo Parr of Columbus said several of the members played ball together during their last tour in Iraq.
“On a scale of 1-to-10, I”d say we”re like a six,” he said of the Guard”s skill.
Plus, they were playing against teams with former college players, like Orlando Smith, son of Mayor Robert Smith, who played ball for Mississippi Valley State University before graduating this year.
Mayor Smith was on hand to support his son and the troops.
“My hat”s off to the local Walmart for putting on this tournament to support our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting to defend our country,” he said. “Just looking around, it looks like they”ve got great participation from ages 18 through 40 for a worthwhile cause.”
Parr said the tournament, which is in its second year, meant a lot to the Guardsmen.
“You see on TV a lot different states and communities doing things for their veterans. It feels good to come home and see people supporting us to make sure we and our families are OK,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.