MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
The crowd roared and shook the floors while the players were drenched in sweat from running
and rubber-soled shoes squeaked as they hit the hardwood. There was only one goal for the
U.S. Armed Forces men's basketball team and that was going for gold.
The International Military Sports Council’s seventh annual Military World Games was held in
Wuhan, China, from Oct. 18th to 27th, 2019. Nearly 10,000 military members from 109 nations
attended this event to face each other in a total of 27 different sports.
Through hard work and dedication, 2nd Lt. Jacob Van, 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron
section commander, was one of the talented athletes to attend this major tournament playing for
the U.S. Armed Forces men’s basketball team as a point guard.
Van’s passion for basketball started when he was eight years old in his hometown of Mansfield,
“I played a lot of sports growing up,” said Van. “I played soccer, football, baseball and
basketball. As I got older and joined high school, I decided to focus on basketball and I played
all four years of high school.”
His efforts and hard work throughout high school landed him a spot to play for the U.S. Air
“It was my junior year of high school and one of the Air Force Academy coaches reached out to
me,” said Van. “They talked about the opportunities that the Air Force had to offer and it was all
very intriguing to me. I had other offers from various schools, but Air Force was definitely the
Van played for the Air Force Academy from 2014 to 2018 where he earned his position as a
“Playing for the academy was awesome since we were in the Mountain West Conference
division,” said Van. “We played against schools like San Jose State, New Mexico so we played
against a lot of future NBA players.”
Van thought of playing basketball professionally after the academy, but instead he was one of
the few chosen to play for the U.S. Air Force men’s basketball team.
“The assistant coach and the head coach of the Air Force team knew who I was since they were
involved at the Air Force academy,” said Van. “They asked me to come out and try out.”
After auditioning with more than 120 applicants, Van was one of 12 members to make the team.
“I went to training camp in San Antonio for two to three weeks,” said Van. “Then we had the
U.S. Armed Forces tournament in Jacksonville, Florida in June 2019. We played against the
U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Navy and we ended up getting the bronze medal.”
After Van’s team won that bronze medal, he later went on to play for the U.S. Armed Forces
team during the Military World Games.
“We lost against China in our first game, but we ended up winning the next three games, which
took us to the semi-final,” said Van. “We finished as the second best team out of 10. Overall we
were very happy and I think we represented the country well.”
The U.S. team defeated Brazil in the semi-final and advanced to the finals to face off against
Lithuania. Despite not winning gold, Van still enjoyed his experience in China.
“China was awesome,” said Van. “There were around 10 basketball teams there. We played
against China, Mongolia, Qatar and the Congo.”
Van still trains for his future endeavors in his basketball journey.
“I work on my own by going to the gym, being in the weight room and playing when I can,” said
Van. “I’ve played for the Minot city men’s league since 2018 and I do that to stay in shape.”
Van hopes to play again in 2020 as the opportunity to play for the Air Force men’s basketball
team is only a one year deal.
“I’m thinking about playing again in the summer,” said Van. “If I make the Armed Forces team
then we will go play in Germany.”