Slam-Dunk Friendships in the Eifel

  • Published
  • By Staff Reports
  • 52 FW/PA
Twelve talented youths from Spangdahlem Air Base ventured out into the German community to share their talents and gain a unique cultural experience: playing basketball with their German neighbors. The Bitburg Basketball Club and their young players welcomed the basketball skills, and the friendships, of the American players, who ranged from ages six to 13.  Competing in three different age groups from August 2012 until June 2013, the Bitburg teams played over 60 games this past year, losing only one game.

"As an American, I find the interaction between the German and American players and families incredible," Denny Lemmon, who taught at Bitburg High School for 30 years before retiring in the Eifel. He now spends his time coaching fellow Americans and Germans in the Bitburg Basketball Club. "It is great to see how playing sports has brought families from different cultures together and contribute to enduring friendships."

The Under 13 girl's team went undefeated throughout the season and won the coveted Rheinland-Pfalz state championship. On that team, Jordynn Toliver, daughter to TSgt. Anthony Toliver of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Kerstin Toliver, and Lauryn Freeman, daughter to MSgt. Jeremy Freeman of the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron and April Freeman, played major roles in their success.

The Under 12 team took first place in the Trier County League and second place in the Rheinland Tournament. Tsion and Asondra Hawkins, children of MSgt. Dwight Hawkins of AFN Spangdahlem and Jeri Hawkins were key players for the team.

The Under 10 team was undefeated and won the County of Trier Championship. They also won the Koblenz Invitational basketball tournament. Half of this team consisted of players from the base. Thor, Thaddeus and Tobias Hawkins from the Hawkins basketball family were a dominant force. Dominic Graham, son of MSgt. Melvin Graham of 52nd Communications Squadron, and Jalen Walker, son of SSgt David Hendrix of 52nd Logistic Readiness Squadron, and Sharon Walker were big contributors to the success of the team. Makenzie Freeman, the younger daughter to the Freeman family, was considered a rising star by many on this young team.

For Americans, a new season starts in September, so the chance to interact with our community and go for the gold on the courts is just around the corner. While not all the German players speak English, the teams have English-speaking coaches and encourage both American and German youths to learn from each other. Any youth player interested in playing basketball with their German counterparts is more than welcome to try out for the teams. The following age groups will be fielding teams for competition:

For the Under 10 team, participants must be born in 2004 or younger.

For the Under 12 team, participants must be born in 2002 or younger.

For the Under 13 girls' team, participants must be born in 2001.

For Under 14 mixed team, participants must be born in 2000.

If you are interested in playing basketball with your local community and slam-dunking some new friendships, please contact Denny Lemmon at