TACOMA Basketball isnt just a young mans sport. For some, their game gets better with age.
A local American Basketball Association team, the Lakewood Panthers, offers men, including a few past and present Joint Base Lewis-McChord service members, a chance to continue to play a sport they love.
The fountain of youth is gone, Marcus Warren said. From where I started, to be where Im at now and still be able to compete at my age, its awesome to me. It feels good to be able to utilize my basketball IQ because I dont have the skill-set and the youngness I used to have.
Warren is 37 and a two-time member of the All-Army basketball team when he served from 1995 to 2007. Warren was one of the first people David Williams contacted when the team owner formed the Lakewood team two years ago.
Williams is also an Army veteran who also played All-Army basketball. Since his retirement he has brought several basketball opportunities to the Pacific Northwest, including the Panthers.
After a 3-15 inaugural season, the Panthers are back this year and eager to compete. The team recently narrowed its roster to 15 and is gearing up for its season opener Saturday against rival Tacoma Rise at Foss High School.
We feel more confident this season, Aharon Goins said. Itll be much better for us.
Like his teammate Warren, Goins didnt pick up basketball until he was in the service.
The technical sergeant with the 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron on McChord Field didnt play in high school, and in the Air Force he didnt see much playing time on his unit teams. He continued to work at his game and tried out for the All-Air Force team twice, only to be cut both times. Goins didnt give up and the third time he went out, the 6-foot-4 forward made the team and All-Air Force won gold.
I went from a guy who wasnt really good to play for his intramural team, to play for his service, he said.
Goins would like to try out for All-Air Force one more time, but even if he doesnt he continues to enjoy a competitive basketball scene in his second season with the Panthers.
I know for me Im not going to the pros, but I still have a love for the game, Goins said. Its a brotherhood, too. Its a lot of fun to support these guys and be a part of a team.
Warren started to play basketball after he entered the service in 1995. He played pickup games and intramural basketball and tried out for the All-Army team in 2002, but didnt make the cut. Warren deployed to Iraq in 2003 and when he returned home he made the All-Army team in 2004 when the team won gold. He returned to play for All-Army in 2005.
With the Panthers Warren serves as team captain and point guard.
Will Causey is an active duty Soldier with the NCO Academy and a quiet leader on the court for the Panthers. He played All-Army basketball in the mid-1990s, and at 40 years old, the service member led the Panthers in rebounds and points last season.
He plays like hes 18, Williams said.
The Lakewood Panthers home opener is Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. Admission is free.