FORT BENNING, Ga.- Even after playing on the Norfolk State University team that upset the No. 2 seeded Missouri Tigers in the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament, graduating magna cum laude, and playing for the semi-pro team, Georgia Road Runners, in Columbus, Ga., 2nd Lt. Brandon Wheeless, a fuel and water platoon leader 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, did not see this coming.
Wheeless recently received orders stating he was one of 20 soldiers selected to compete during the All-Army training camp at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The training camp occurs yearly. Twenty soldiers are picked to attend the camp; after two weeks it’s cut down to 12 soldiers, said Coach Carl Little, a first lieutenant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID. The remaining soldiers then move on to play for the Armed Forces Men's Basketball Championship in Great Lakes, Ill., in November.
“Some soldiers are returning while this will be the first time for others,” said Little.
Wheeless started playing basketball at the age of 13 with the neighbors next door. He remembers watching them through the window, and one day he decided to go out and play.
When he was younger he was into music and performed as a percussionist playing the snare drums. As he got older he began to develop a more competitive spirit and basketball became his first love, Wheeless said.
Playing varsity basketball throughout high school and being a shooting guard for the True Hope Trail Blazers, which is an American Basketball Association team, Wheeless has always maintained a desire to play on the court.
Wheeless enlisted into the Navy after attending a year of college at North Carolina A&T State University. He received some exposure in the Virginia area where he was stationed by playing on the All-Navy basketball team.
Norfolk State University offered Wheeless a scholarship to play basketball when he finished his enlistment with the Navy.
“It was military appreciation night, second game of the season and a brigade commander from Fort Eustis came to the game,” said Wheeless. “He knew I was prior service so after the game we talked and he pretty much convinced me to join the ROTC program.
“Originally, coming into the Army I gave basketball up. I really wanted to be a hard charger, work hard as I could and be proficient in my job. Once I got here, I got that itch to get back out there and play,” said Wheeless.
Wheeless knew about the All-Army basketball team from playing on the Navy team. Being on the Fort Benning post team he was able to reach out to the coach for the All-Army training camp.
He is grateful for the opportunity to continue to play basketball and be a commissioned officer.
“It is a privilege to be commissioned officer, come to work every day, plus do what I love to do while I’m in the Army,” said Wheeless.
“I represent all the soldiers. It’s just not me going out here to play basketball it’s me being a sports ambassador,” said Wheeless. “I’m representing the Army, brigade, battalion and company I came from.”