News: Coast Guard Point Guard
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen
CAPE MAY, N.J. - Marquel Delancey had a different kind of Thanksgiving this year. Although the meal was traditional, he was enjoying it 3,800 miles away from his home. It was here in Mons, Belgium, where Delancey had the rare opportunity to represent his country and the U.S. Coast Guard as a member of the Armed Forces Basketball Team.
Delancey decided to serve his country as a Coast Guardsman shortly after graduating from Old Dominion University in May 2012. Upon completing basic training with company Alpha-188, he reported to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Cape May, N.J.
As an engineering division member of the 44-year-old ship, Fireman Delancey remains flexible with a high level of adaptability to overcome challenges.
“The Coast Guard has given me a solid foundation for my family,” said Delancey, a 23-year-old native of Alexandria, Va. “It’s a great starting point with a lot of opportunity.”
Throughout his college years, Delancey served as point guard for the ODU Monarchs basketball team. His attitude of teamwork — on and off the court —earned him a favorable reputation amongst those who work with him.
“We are extremely proud of Fireman Delancey and his contribution to our service,” said Cmdr. Terry Johns, commanding officer of the cutter Vigorous. “Since his arrival in April 2013, we have sailed thousands of miles together enforcing laws and protecting the maritime environment. Marquel has proven himself as a valuable engineer and a trusted shipmate.”
Delancey has been in the Coast Guard for just eight months, but he’s already earned his required in-port and underway qualifications, and he is on the waiting list for operations specialist “A” school.
Aside from performing his required duties and responsibilities with his ship, Delancey jumped at the unique opportunity to try out for the Team USA All-Armed Forces basketball squad and compete in the 2013 SHAPE International Basketball Tournament. SHAPE is the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, which is the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO), one of NATO's two strategic military commands.
In total, eight countries participated in the 50th year of the tournament: Belgium, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and the United States. During the tournament, Team USA was edged by Italy, 57-55, but came back to defeat Belgium, 80-31, and Kazakhstan, 104-55.
With its 2-1 pool play record, the team was placed into the bronze medal game, where they won against Latvia, 97-73, to finish in third place. Lithuania defeated Italy in the championship game, 86-61.
Delancey averaged 9 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game.
“It was definitely challenging getting back into B-ball shape,” said Delancey, who hadn’t played competitively since spring 2012. “There were a lot of time constraints to deal with. We only had a couple of weeks to get the team ready, but I did my best to get enough rest and keep my body healthy.”
The team prepared for the tournament at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., under the direction of their head coach, Coast Guard Lt. Micah Bonner.
Bonner, supervisor of Marine Safety Detachment Peoria, Ill., has a lot of experience with the SHAPE International Basketball Tournament; he was a player in 2005 and 2006, and he was an assistant coach in 2012. Participating in the event for a fourth time – now as the head coach – brought him much joy.
“I really enjoyed watching the team’s hard work unfold on the court,” said Bonner. “It was an honor to represent the Coast Guard and interact with foreign leaders. I’m very proud of my team’s efforts.”
Bonner says he hopes to return as head coach again, and he looks forward to having Delancey on his team once more.
“Marquel will be dangerous on the court if he gets to go again,” said Bonner. “He’s one of the best point guards around. He’s just so fast and so skilled – the sky’s the limit!”
Delancey’s teammates included service members from the Air Force and the Navy, as well as a fellow Coast Guardsman, Seaman Christopher Linton.
“Marquel has the court vision,” said Linton. “He’s super fast and he knows how to score, but he also looks to make others better by knowing his teammates’ sweet spots.”
Team USA played several games and spent weeks preparing for the tournament, but they also managed to find extra time to go out in the community. During their time at Naval Station Great Lakes, they made it out to the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago and had some fun doing basketball drills with the kids. Before they arrived in Belgium, they spent a little time at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where they visited two area high schools for more basketball drills.
Delancey received further praise for his role in the tournament from his commanding officer, Cmdr. Terry Johns.
“He is one of thousands of unsung heroes who bring unique talents, skill and experience to our organization and nation,” said Johns. “Who would have known that his basketball skills would bring us pride in our service in Europe? He is an outstanding representative of the Coast Guard and armed services.”
With the tournament behind him now, Delancey is looking forward to a nice Christmas with his wife, 17-month-old son, and his visiting family.
Soon the cutter Vigorous will embark on another deployment to carry out the Coast Guard’s many missions. Delancey will be standing the watch, hopeful for the opportunity to once again represent the United States through his athleticism.