Midway through the unit-level basketball season in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports programmer, Matt Gilliard, wanted to showcase the season’s best players.
He reintroduced “Night of the Stars,” the local equivalent of the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game. The event was held Jan. 21 at the Patch Fitness Center.
“It gives us something to look forward to throughout the season,” Gilliard said. “It gives [the players] a chance to show their skills to other team members.”
The top 20 players in the league, picked from all of the teams, were invited to face off against each other on the Blue Team (players ranked with an odd number) and the Red Team (evens).
“It gives them a chance to play together with people they wouldn’t normally be playing with,” Gilliard added.
During halftime, players could participate in a 3-point shot contest, where they had 35 seconds to shoot 12 3-pointers (four from each end of the baselines and the center).
One player proved to be the “star of the stars” when he won the halftime challenge and was later named game Most Valuable Player.
James Turner (Blue Team) made eight out of 12 shots in the 3-point shot competition.
But his skills during the game were even more impressive. Turner, who plays guard for the U.S. Africa Command team during the regular season, earned 29 points during the game, including seven 3-point shots.
Turner attributed his high score to his teammates’ good passes during the game.
“My team[mates] — they look for me all night long,” Turner said, holding both of his trophies after the game. “Without them passing [the ball] to me, I wouldn’t be taking these home.”
The Blue Team’s strategy — getting Turner the ball — also resulted in a runaway victory for them.
The game started out slowly, but the Blue Team started picking up speed when Chris Jackson stole the ball for a quick layup about six minutes into the half. Three steals in a row helped put the Blue Team ahead with a 35-10 score at halftime.
When play resumed, the Red Team came out yelling “Defense!” But it did little to stop the Blue Team from scoring.
With minutes left in the game, the Red Team called a time out. “We just need to cool the nets,” said Gary John, a Red Team forward. “They’re just getting way too hot.”
The Red Team displayed a renewed intensity with a full-court press, and Johns took two steals, but the Blue Team stayed ahead, ending the game with a final score of 63-30.
Red Team forward Mark Hennings, acting as stand-in captain, explained why his team’s strategy didn’t go as planned.
“We’re a younger team. We were going to play transition ball and run these old guys into the ground,” he said. “[But] we were lacking experience.”
Despite the loss, the Red Team left the gym in good spirits. According to Red Team player Johns, the game ended up being another chance to enjoy playing basketball.
“Nobody was stressed over it,” Johns said. “They made it fun.”
For more photos, visit www.flickr.com/photos/usagstuttgart.