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Once opponents, Andre Hall and Julian Smith are now teammates.
Smith of Alpha Company, 46th Aviation Support Battalion, faced Hall of I Corps in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord intramural Army basketball championship earlier this year. Smiths team won the best of Army contest and defeated the Air Force 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron for the best of JBLM title.
But starting this week Hall and Smith play for the same team the All-Army team. The two Soldiers left town yesterday for the All-Army basketball trial camp in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.
For Smith this is his first All-Army experience, but for Hall this is a familiar scene for the 6-foot-6 big man. Growing up Hall was always taller than everybody else and he enjoyed a lengthy basketball career. He joined the Army 14 years ago and tried out for his first All-Army team in 2000. After his first season, he was back and fourth on multiple deployments to Iraq before playing on the All-Army team again in 2009. A couple of weeks ago the All-Army coach called the 34-year-old to tell him about all the young talent coming in.
I wasnt going to submit an application until the coach told me he needed a big man, Hall said. Im going to try to beat them up and get them ready. Beat them up a little bit and let them know what theyre about to go through.
Hall is coming off a knee injury and anxious to get back in the game. Hes played military basketball since he enlisted, even finding ways to play while deployed. The All-Army coach received quite a few applications from JBLM, including Smiths. Hall could attest to the young Soldiers talents on the court after playing against him in the intramural championship.
Smith started playing basketball at 12, playing at the YMCA in Connecticut where he grew up. He went on to be part of a state championship team his senior year in high school and played basketball at the junior college level in Texas.
Smith joined the Army 2 1/2 years ago and has been preparing for his first All-Army experience. The 6-3 power forward knows what its like to compete at the elite level. Growing up he played AAU basketball where his team traveled nationally and internationally for tournaments.
A lot of people are asking me if Im nervous, Smith said. Im not. Ive been down this road before. Im anxious and cant wait to go.
If selected to the All-Army team, Smith and Hall will play against the other military branches. If selected to the All-Armed Forces team, their time on the road will extend to play against other elite talent.
Im excited, Smith said. I hope to be able to make an impact on the team. Its about winning because I hate losing, but its definitely about having a fun time.