SE: Wildcats Strengthen Bond With Ft. Riley Partner

July 10, 2015
By Kelly McHugh

“Never broken” – it’s a motto the K-State men’s basketball program truly takes to heart. 

The team learned these words from its military partner unit, Fort Riley’s 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. The phrase “Never Broken by Hardship or Battle” is the unit’s long-time motto, and it is a motto the Wildcats recently adopted as well. 

“It’s a reminder of our partnership here with the 1-7 Field Artillery,” said Matt McCumber the K-State men’s basketball Director of Student-Athlete Development. “We wear it on our jerseys, on our sleeves during games. It helps us to remember to stay positive, stay focused and to remain tough during difficult situations.” 

Sharing a motto is just one of many ways this partnership has found success. 

The bond between the men’s basketball team and their military neighbors is a strong one. Along with K-State wearing the 1-7 Field Artillery crest on the sleeves of their jerseys, the team hosts clinics with the soldiers’ families and the unit often comes out to games to cheer on their favorite purple team. 

Yesterday afternoon, the bond between the two partners only continued to blossom as the Wildcats took a trip out to Fort Riley to spend time with soldiers and their families. 

“I thought it was a tremendous event,” continued McCumber. “It was great to come out here and be on post with the 1-7 Field Artillery because usually they come to us. This was a good chance for our guys to go to them. The 1-7 FA does so much for us through protecting our freedom, so it was a great, great chance to give back, play with the kids, meet the soldiers, sign some autographs and just have fun.”

And having fun was exactly what the team did.

When the players showed up at Fort Riley’s Long Fitness Center, they were ready for an afternoon filled with fun and games with the 1-7 Field Artillery. 

“We had a really good day,” said K-State senior guard Justin Edwards. “We got to hang out with the soldiers and play basketball with some of their kids. We played some one-on-one, we played knockout, we interacted with them and had a lot of fun. It was a really good day.”

The team started the afternoon breaking into groups and working with the military children through various basketball drills. From shooting free throws to dribbling to helping the kids dunk, the basketball players enjoyed having the opportunity to share the game they love.  

“Today was a great opportunity to display the partnership between the 1-7 and the men’s basketball program,” said First Lieutenant Stephen Motta. “We finally get the opportunity to get these guys on post and playing in one of our gyms. We participated at the men’s facility in January, but this is a great opportunity to get the college players on post and give them a chance to see where our guys work on a day-to-day basis.”

1LT Motta is a 2006 graduate of Kansas State University, and recently took charge of the partnership for the 1-7 Field Artillery. Motta recently took over for 1st Sgt. Sean DeWitt, and now serves as the liaison between the Wildcat basketball program and his soldiers – a position he said he could not be more excited to be in. 

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Motta with a smile. “When I came in to the 1-7 and they told me they were partners with the men’s basketball team, I thought it was great. I’m a K-State grad, so I asked them, ‘What can I do to help build the partnership?’ Eventually I got to take the lead, and it’s been an awesome opportunity so far.”

Added McCumber about working with a proud K-Stater, “First Lieutenant Motta has a lot of passion for K-State Athletics. So it was really easy to talk to him about this event. He’s been pretty gung-ho since the beginning; he really wanted to put on a good show. He loves K-State and we do too so it’s been great working with him.”

With Motta in the lead on the 1-7 Field Artillery side and McCumber in the lead for the Wildcats, the long-standing partnership is in good hands.

With 10 new faces on the Wildcat basketball roster, for many, yesterday afternoon’s trip to Fort Riley was their first taste of the partnership. 

“It was very important for our new guys to get our here because they didn’t know what we do with the 1-7 Field Artillery unit,” said McCumber. “To have them get out here, see what it’s like and know that it’s more than basketball here at K-State, that we like to give back to the community and the soldiers, I think that opened their eyes. Hopefully they’ve made some lasting friendships and relationships through this that they’ll carry on in their upcoming years with the program.” 

The newcomers had the opportunity to dive right in and get to know a few of their biggest fans from Fort Riley. 

“Coach (Weber) talked a little bit about the partnership, but I really didn’t know a lot about it before today,” said Dean Wade, an incoming freshman from St. John, Kansas.  “It was a great day. These guys protect our freedom, so this is just a little thing we can do for them. It was nice to get away from campus for a little while, and it was fun to come out here and entertain their kids. It was awesome”

Like Wade, incoming freshman Barry Brown knew about the partnership, but didn’t realize it was so strong. 

Brown said before yesterday he had never been on a military base, but, after a great afternoon, he’s already looking forward to the next time they go back.

“The best part of today was being out on the court with the kids,” said Brown. “They love Kansas State and they love having us out there playing with them. Doing things like this, I think it shows that we’re not just about basketball at K-State – we’re about helping others too.”

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.