Hoops for a Cause Colorado

Hoops for a Cause

After a long day serving as an Army officer at Fort Carson, Maj. Mike Meyers has big plans on how to wind down once quitting time ultimately hits. He changes out of his uniform, grabs his bag, gets into his vehicle, and heads to Lifetime Fitness in northern Colorado Springs to blow off some steam. A pretty familiar scenario, right?

But, when he gets there, he’s not headed to a treadmill or weight station, where many find delight in being in no one else’s company. You see, he doesn’t want to be alone. A more than two-decade career in the military taught him that.

That’s why he cofounded the Military Basketball Association (MBA) in 2017, before receiving his orders to relocate to the Pikes Peak region. When he arrives at the gym, he’s met by comrades from most branches of the military, and they are also ready to release the stress of the day in their own special way. Together, they run and rerun offensive plays and defensive sets, work on fundamentals and sharpen their skills for the next game during a rigorous two-hour session.

Fort Carson Soldier
Fort Carson soldier Akeem Echols helped lead Colorado Military Basketball to within four points of reaching the Military Basketball League finals last summer in Denver.

By going through that routine, life gets a little better for those who pull on the jersey with “Colorado Military Basketball” (CMB) emblazoned across the chest.

“We’ve got 22 guys committed to playing basketball, and as we play, we’re bringing awareness to behavioral health concerns for veterans while also staying resilient,” says Meyers, who, besides serving as the team’s head coach, also is the league’s commissioner. “The suicide rate among veterans is extremely high, and everything we do is predicated toward keeping guys focused and part of a family. Get ’em out of the barracks and around a team. If you’re part of a team, you’re part of a family.”

That’s exactly what got Meyers, along with retired Army veteran Angel Acevado and fellow veteran Jason Lafasciano to create a basketball league solely intent on supporting the military athlete. The mission of the MBA, through the sport of basketball, is to educate communities on the challenges and stigmas regarding post-traumatic stress and strongly advocate for intervention in the alarming rate of suicide among veterans.

From a meager 16 teams during the inaugural season in 2018, the MBA now boasts 44 varsity-level programs spanning four conferences countrywide and also has expanded to leagues in Korea and Europe. In July, 24 of those teams will converge on Denver for the MBA finals, where Colorado’s team narrowly missed out on a spot in the championship game last summer.

Giving Back

Alex Miller grew up in Loveland and didn’t really have a plan after graduating high school. He then enlisted in the Marine Corps and spent the next eight years in an elite unit. At age 25, he suddenly found himself a civilian, deposited at the foot of the real world with the reality of not being told what to do quickly setting in. What’s next?

Now 34, Miller is the team’s veteran exemption—each team is allowed one veteran who isn’t active duty or a contractor—to mesh with those whose days are chock full of being told what to do. “For me to be here, it’s more about camaraderie,” says Miller, who owns a fiber optics splicing company in Castle Rock. “A lot of guys come back, and they don’t have outlets. The military is so structured. Then, you get out, and some get lost. In the military, we all motivate each other, but we all know it’s not always like that in the civilian world. That’s why I like military basketball. It’s structured, like the military, but it’s more than just a sport. Anyone having a hard time and who needs an outlet can come join us. There are other places you can go instead of being by yourself. We’re a family right here.”

Maj. Michael Argyle echoes these sentiments, but from a different perspective. He’s still active duty and spends his days as a primary care team physician at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Back in the day, he walked on at BYU and was teammates with a future first-round NBA draft pick named Jimmer Fredette. For Argyle, getting a chance to suit up and get on the court after hours in the clinic is a godsend, and he wishes more knew about the opportunity Colorado Military Basketball offers. “This is a great outlet and something we love doing and have great camaraderie with all the different branches of the military,” Argyle says. “Work is always stressful, and to be able to play basketball at night is good and very fun. It’s also a lot of fun to put Colorado on our chests and play. Right now, there’s no other MBA team from Colorado, but we’re getting the word out.”

Pride in Being a Hometown Team

The CMB plays in the Central U.S. Military Basketball League along with 12 other teams; there’s also the Atlantic Coastal Military Basketball Conference, Pacific West Military Basketball Conference, and Washington Area Athletic Division along with the European and Korean MBA leagues.

Although the team doesn’t have a catchy logo or mascot, Meyers wants everyone in Colorado Springs to know, and embrace, their team. “Colorado Military Basketball is our name, and we want to bring a championship to Colorado Springs,” Meyers says. “This is a military community, the city of champions, and we really fit here. Being a coach and mentor is what I do. I love it. This is what keeps me going.”