TIKRIT, Iraq — Top basketball talent throughout Contingency Operating Base Speicher played in the All Star Basketball game held at the Main Gym, March 13.
Among the talent was Sgt. Chris Blanks of Dover, Del., a supply noncommissioned officer with 701st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan.
Blanks, who donned a number eight jersey and represented the "Riot Squad" for the West, started playing basketball at 8 years old. He continued playing throughout high school and displayed his talent for a year in college.
For someone who said that he lost some of his love for the game during his last deployment, Blanks dominated on the court during the All Star game scoring 15 points of the West's 73 to 55 win over the East Saturday night.
"The last [forward operating base] I was at was real small and everything was in walking distance," he said. "The only court we had was an outdoor court and the gym was about as big as the weight room I have behind me. It was kind of bad because I had to work so much [that] I couldn't even play ball and that's when I kind of lost some of my love for it but being back here and being able to play has kind of helped me get some of my love [for the game] back."
With five minutes left in the first half of the game, the West had already pulled ahead to a 10 point lead over the East. But the East battled back cutting the lead to six, ending the first half with a score of 39 to 33.
However, the determination of the West overpowered the East as the West entered the second half converting on nearly every possession.
According to Blanks, the turning point of the All Star game was during the second half when the West sunk two three-point baskets increasing the lead to eight over the East.
"I think we were playing more team ball, better defense and hustling," he said. "They didn't really want it. They thought they had a better team and thought they were just going to come in here and walk all over us, but we wanted it more and that's what's important."
Blanks has been playing with the COB Speicher basketball league since it started in November of last year. He said that playing basketball helps to speed up the deployment, relieve stress and is a good workout.
Even though he's played basketball most of his life, Blanks said his biggest accomplishment is being eligible for staff sergeant with only four years in the military.
"I did what I had to do to show my leaders that I was good at what I was doing," he said. "When I'm on the basketball court, I can adjust to any team I play on, and I can play any position. Anytime they need me to do something at work, I'm ready to go. If I have to go on missions or if I have to do something to help the Soldiers out or just do my regular [military occupational specialty], I'm ready. I can do it all."
As for his future plans, Blanks said that he isn't thinking that far ahead. He's just focusing on getting through the deployment, making it home and seeing what happens.
"When I get home I'm going to enjoy myself. I'm not going to try to waste time thinking about the future, I'm just going to live in the moment," he concluded.
"I'm just glad I got to play in [the game] and can still play with some of the top players in the league."
This work, 701st Soldier leads on, off the court, by SGT Shantelle Campbell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.