SMC members “Hoop it up” with Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- How often do you get a chance to scrimmage with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers?

Prior to the start of a preseason game Oct. 11 against the Portland Trailblazers, 50 members from the Space and Missile System Center got that chance. The SMC personnel from Los Angeles Air Force Base here were given the opportunity to receive tips from former Laker Brian Cook on shooting, dribbling, jump shots and other basketball skills during the “Hoops for Troops” program at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“What an amazing night! Not only were family members able to watch the clinic practically courtside at Staples Center, each military members received free tickets to the game,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Ross, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 61st Medical Squadron’s personnel and administration office.

Military members from SMC’s Global Positioning, Remote Sensing, Launch Enterprise, MILSATCOM, Space Superiority System directorates and the 61st Air Base Group ran the drills with members of the Lakers staff. One lucky member, 2nd Lt. Jose Baquero, a Military GPS User Equipment Test Manager from SMC’s Global Positioning Directorate, completed a flawless lay up after several tips from Lakers staff.

“It was pretty cool, and what a great opportunity,” said Baquero. “It’s one thing to see the 16-time NBA champions on T.V., but to actually play on the same court was incredible.”

The one-hour basketball clinic showed the military some on-court challenges, like how to bank shots, bounce pass and even how to sink a three-point shot.

The Hoops for Troops program is a way of staying connected to the local community. Jason McDevitt, director of community relations, said the Lakers love to connect with military members. This program has replaced the traditional on-court recognition ceremony by providing military members with something more interactive and engaging.

“We bring them to the court and show them a little Laker basketball,” said McDevitt. “We get them sweating and help them feel a connection to the team, and the support while serving our country locally and abroad.”

“We are honored to support our military members here at SMC and Los Angeles Air Force Base,” said Patrick Murphy, president of the Pechanga Development Corporation and co-sponsor of Hoops for Troops. “We want the clinics to be a way of showing how much we appreciate the tireless work of our military members.”

Even though the game went into overtime with the Lakers coming up short against the Trailblazers, the game was exciting and fun to watch. The event was a win-win for all involved.

“What a special day this was for all the folks that attended!” exclaimed Chief Master Sgt. Craig Hall, SMC superintendent and senior enlisted advisor. “To know the Lakers and Pechanga made this opportunity available for our SMC and Los Angeles AFB personnel here means a lot to all those who came out to play basketball with other champions.”