By Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 11, 2016
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
When Lortavius Smith leaped for an interception during a flag football game, it wasn't just another play. He also served notice to his unit and Schriever about his athletic talent.
"The way he landed, it took him a second to get up," said Master Sgt. Zachary Parish, 50th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. "I made the joke, 'if you didn't jump so high, it wouldn't hurt so badly when you fall so far to the ground.'"
But Smith, a 50 SFS patrolman, wouldn't have it any other way.
"It shows how much love I have for the game," said Smith. "Just going all out and literally reaching for the stars in everything I do, definitely in sports, but I always try to take it to the highest level possible."
According to his leadership, Smith puts everything he has into everything he does and is one of the squadron's brightest Airmen, but where he really shines is on the basketball court.
The Toomsboro, Georgia native has only been in the Air Force for four years, but has already been selected for the Air Force basketball team three times. There's more... Smith recently returned from his second year competing at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe basketball tournament in Belgium--a tournament for the best of the best in the allied military.
"When I learned Airman Smith was picked up for this tournament, it didn't surprise me, because I've seen his athletic ability," said Parish.
In order to earn a spot on the U.S. Armed Forces team and compete in the SHAPE tournament, one must first tryout and be selected for their service-specific basketball team.
"The four branches meet up at Camp Pendleton in San Diego and we play a huge tournament against each other," said Smith. "Based on how well you perform in the tournament in San Diego, is how you get selected to advance [to the Armed Forces team]. So, from all four branches, they pick the best players to make the team."
This past year, selected players attended a 10-day training camp at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, before traveling to Belgium to compete against teams from around the world.
"We went undefeated last year at SHAPE, but this year we placed third," said the 5'11" point guard. "We played Lithuania for the championship last year--they actually ended up beating us out this year and made us play Italy for third."
Lithuania went on to win the competition, followed by Latvia and the United States, respectively.
Smith insists winning isn't everything and is proud of his team's success throughout the competition. To him, basketball has proven to be an important aspect of his life since he was a young boy.
"I'm definitely very passionate about basketball," said Smith. "It kind of determined how my life was going to go. I was able to stay out of trouble by playing sports, it kept my mind in the right place and I was able to focus through basketball."
Smith first started playing the sport at the age of 11 and honed his skills through middle school, high school and a year of college.
"I've always seen myself, from age 11, playing [basketball] and I told myself I would let basketball take me to different places," said Smith.
Many kids would dream of joining the NBA and becoming famous. Although that appealed to Smith, he always had a different career path in mind.
"I knew the ball was going to stop dribbling one day, if I did make it to the NBA, that'd be fine, but at the end of the day, my main priority was coming into the Air Force to serve," said Smith.
Smith said the core values taught in the Air Force translate well into sports and ultimately makes him a better player.
"When the core values kick in, it kicks in on and off the court," said Smith. "My parents and everyone in my family are definitely proud of what [I've accomplished] and it kind of shows the kids back home that the military is a good thing."
Smith's family members aren't the only ones proud of him.
"Speaking personally and on behalf of the unit, we are extremely proud of him," said Parish. "To see the Air Force has people with talent that exceeds what is expected of them within their AFSC. Seeing him fulfill his potential and maximize his talent--it's something that is good for us as a unit and it's something that we are very proud of."
Smith offered advice to those wanting to try out for the Air Force basketball team.
"Try it, it is definitely worth it," said Smith. "Even if you don't make the team, there is always next year. Just to be able to come out and say you've tried and the group of people you get to meet, the relationships that you build there don't stop."
Smith plans to continue practicing and is looking forward to the 2016 basketball tryouts.
"With basketball, I have the chance to look forward to something every year," said Smith. "I get the chance to play the game I love and I get to serve my country. I want to thank everyone for their support, especially my leadership and everybody who was a part of getting me there--my commander, first shirt, supervisor, peers, friends, family--thank you for all of the love and support."