MANHATTAN – Dozens of Soldiers and Family members with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division were treated to an all-access tour of the new Kansas State University Basketball practice facility Dec. 12.
While there, they were able to watch the last 30 minutes of the men’s basketball practice before going down and testing out their skills against the players who suit up for the Wildcats every game, in three-on-three, one-on-one, knockout and many other games.
“It was a different experience than playing regular courts, we were going against much bigger guys – guys who really know how to play ball,” said Spc. Michael Evans-Benton, who stands at about six feet, two inches. “I thought I was big, but they’re a lot bigger than me. They can jump over me.”
The event was the latest in a long series of interactions between the battalion and the Wildcat men’s team. New K-State Men’s Basketball Team coach Bruce Weber, hired this past March, said he was determined to continue what his predecessor, Frank Martin, had begun.
“I think it’s great if you can add a smile or a little bit of happiness during the holiday season,” Weber said. “It’s also good for our players to kind of show some thanks, appreciation and understanding for the commitment and dedication for what you guys do for us. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
It was a good chance for many of the Soldiers and their Families to get a glimpse into a different kind of life than many of them had grown up living, according to 1st Sgt. Sean Dewitt, senior enlisted adviser with Co. G, 1st Bn., 7th FA.
“A lot of these young Soldiers never went to college, they went straight into the military and never got to see the college life and the kind of opportunities that are out there,” Dewitt said. “Sometimes (in the Army), you’re based in a small community, can’t do anything and feel like you’re kind of trapped. But there’s so much to do out here, especially with these guys, just trying to build a relationship and seeing them grow from freshman to senior year and trying to grow with them, is neat.”
Soldiers were free to bring their children and significant others along with them, and at any given time during the event, small children could be seen playing against stars like Rodney McGruder or Jordan Henriquez.
“It was great to see my son out there playing with these guys,” Dewitt said.
After roughly an hour, the games calmed down and players got behind a pair of long tables to autograph team posters for Soldiers and their children. Because it was K-State’s final exam week, players then left to study.
Just after the new year, the team plans to visit Fort Riley and experience a day in the life of a Soldier with the “First Lightning” Battalion.
“It’s our break, and we don’t have class, so it’s a good chance to get out there and interact with Soldiers and see what it’s like and again – gain that little bit of appreciation,” Weber said. “So, when the players are complaining about how hard they have it, I think they’ll see a little bit of a different viewpoint (afterwards).”
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2nd ABCT
First Sgt. Michael Deatherage, right, senior enlisted adviser, Btry. B, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., goes up for a shot during a game of one-on-one with Nino Williams, a guard with the K-State Men’s Basketball Team Dec. 12 at the K-State Basketball Team’s new practice facility.