Navy lieutenant bids aloha with big night for Swish

Navy Lt. Mark Veazey knocks home a reverse lay-up for two of his 21 points for the Hawaii Swish.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Last season, Lt. Mark Veazey was a constant presence at the five spot for the Hawaii Swish, a local professional basketball team that competes in the American Basketball Association.

Playing in his first and last game for the Swish this season, Veazey reminded everyone just how valuable he was to the Swish after walking off the court for the last time with 21 points in a 126-83 rout of the ABA defending champs Southwest Atlanta Warriors in the year’s opener Jan. 7 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.

After two years in Hawaii, Veazey will be leaving the islands later this month to continue his education in California courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

“I’m going to the Naval post-graduate school,” Veazey said. “I’ll be leaving in the middle of this month.”

Veazey is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where is also competed on the school’s basketball squad. He had recently returned from a stint on the All-Navy basketball team, where he added more polish to his game.

Against the Warriors, Veazey was at his best in sliding past the defense on a several pick-and-rolls, while slamming home two impressive dunks before finishing off the night by connecting on a long three-point shot from beyond the arc.

“I feel good,” he said. “I just got back from All-Navy basketball in Texas and it got me prepared. They really get you in shape. I was feeling really confident and that’s all you need.”

Veazey got off to a quick start by scoring six points on two baskets and two free throws in the first quarter, as Hawaii got out to a 35-20 lead.

In the second quarter, the 6-foot-10-inch player executed perfectly on a pick-and-roll to convert his eighth point of the game, before finishing the first half with in double figures at 10 points.

Veazey added six more points in the third quarter with one of the baskets coming off a huge slam dunk on a dime from Swish owner/player Geremy Robinson, as the team raced off to a dominating 93-62 lead after three quarters.

“A lot of us have been here or there, but we’ve had practices and have been playing together a lot,” he said about the team’s impressive play against the Warriors. “We got great continuity and we’re building off of last year. We all know each other and won’t have to figure it out during the season.”

Even more impressive was the fact that Veazey accomplished so much while being matched up against a 7-foot-2-inch player in Brandon Baker.

“He was big and he definitely had a lot of size to him,” Veazey said. “But I just feel like I’m quicker. I can run pretty good for a big guy, so that’s what I do.”

Although Veazey will be exiting the team, the Swish will still have a military connection with former Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) basketball star Sean Caddell and active-duty Marine Lance Cpl. Jarren James, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268 (VMM-268), MCAS Kaneohe Bay.

Both players did their part in contributing to the win over the Warriors, with Caddell recording five points and James posting eight points that included two slam dunks.

“I love it. I’ve been doing this all my life,” James said. “For my company to allow me to do this is amazing.”

Head coach Artie Wilson, a former star basketball player at the University of Hawaii, said that having a military presence on the squad enhances the overall team chemistry.

“No. 1, they’re respectful and No. 2, they have no fear,” Wilson said. “They’re warriors and they’ll go to war for you on the court, but No. 3, they are good human beings. I enjoy coaching all these guys.”

Veazey said that he’ll always cherish his time spent in Hawaii and expressed his gratitude for the fans and his fellow co-workers at Pacific Command/Joint Intelligence Operation Center (PACOM/JIOC).

“I’m leaving a year early to pursue my master’s degree,” he said. “It’s amazing. We loved it and wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.”

The Hawaii Swish will be back on the court at the Blais-dell Jan. 26 in an ABA matchup against the Chicago Vipers.

For more information about the Swish, visit their website at www.hawaiiswishaba.com.

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Category: Sports