Fan anticipation grows prior to Armed Forces Classic

by Airman 1st Class Trevor Rhynes
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and their families are eagerly awaiting the Armed Forces Classic basketball game tonight on Ramstein.

The Michigan State Spartans take on the University of Connecticut Huskies in the opening game of the 2012 NCAA men’s basketball regular season. This is the first NCAA men’s basketball game to be played outside of the U.S.

“This is truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Capt. Ryan Natalini, 86th Security Forces Squadron operations officer and a MSU alumnus. “I have followed the (Spartans) ever since I was in high school, have attended numerous home games, and have seen them play at the Final Four in Detroit and Indianapolis, so this is going to be a special treat.”

The base has been buzzing with anticipation as they patiently wait to attend or watch the Spartans and Huskies battle it out in the season opener.

“I am extremely excited to be able to have the Huskies here, it brings a little bit of home to the KMC for me,” said Senior Airman Bob Roberts, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production journeyman. “I remember going to games as a kid and I have been a fan since the Ray Allen days and as far back as I can

Natalini will have the opportunity to be with the team throughout their stay here.

“My commander, Lt. Col. Phil Holmes, knows I am a huge MSU basketball fan,” Natalini said. “When the opportunity arose, he sent my name forward as a volunteer to be with the team.”
As an escort, the 2003 MSU graduate will fulfill an advisory role with the team.

“I will be there to assist the team and coaching staff with anything possible,” the Michigan native said. “From helping them coordinate meals to liaising between them and the base leadership, I will be at their disposal. I am really hoping to see a lot of their practices and help explain some of the ‘military isms’ that they may not fully understand.”

For Roberts, this game is simply an opportunity to watch his favorite team live for the first time in years.
“I am looking forward to being able to actually watch a game, it is tough out here with work and the time differences to actually be able to follow my favorite sports teams,” Roberts said. “Also to see how the team does without former head coach Jim Calhoun, he will be greatly missed.”

Natalini has been a fan of the Spartans throughout the years, the players have changed but he still has a current favorite.

 “I have followed the team since the late ‘90s and am a huge fan,” he said. “It was wonderful to watch Draymond Green the past four years, but my favorite current player probably is Keith Appling.”

Any Spartan fan knows long-time head coach for the Spartans, Tom Izzo, constantly brings fundamentally sound teams to the court, Natalini said.

“The best part of the team is the coaching and philosophy of Tom Izzo,” he said.
“He always has teams that are disciplined, efficient and physically tough. This is going to be a great season, and hopefully lead to a trip to Atlanta for another Final Four come March.”