Spc. Donald Wallenta had never seen a Baylor men’s basketball game in person before Dec. 16.
Yet for Wallenta, the Bears’ 104-59 victory against Hardin Simmons at Abrams Physical Fitness Center was bigger than prime seats to watch the No. 16 team in the nation with his wife, Marion, and her parents Ken and Gale Pyle.
“It means a lot,” he said, “that they’re going to come out and do something to try to bring up the morale of the soldiers on post.”
That was the aim of Baylor head coach Scott Drew and his players Wednesday, as they put on a show for the sellout crowd in the first regular season college basketball game at Fort Hood.
But even before the Bears wowed the crowd with alley oops and powerful slams, Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Todd Fox already had a pretty clear indicator that the mission was accomplished.
“Managing the tickets for this,” he said, “was not an easy task.”
That is because many, like Wallenta, were determined to be a part of the experience as soon as it was announced.
Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Wright, a basketball coach at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Temple, even invited his players to join him at the game.
For him, there was no question of whether or not he’d be attending when the game was announced.
“I knew I was going to be here,” Wright said.
The game was not open to the general public. Tickets were passed out to soldiers from Fort Hood first sergeants.
And because of the turnout and positive feedback from the community, the inevitable question of whether or not it’d become a regular occurrence was prevalent Wednesday night.
Drew and Fox both said they’d love to see it happen again though they weren’t able to make any promises.
But for at least last Wednesday night, the game was a raging success.
One that soldiers like Wallenta and Wright won’t soon forget.
“When you get a top-20 team like Baylor to come play at Fort Hood it’s a pretty significant event,” Fox said. “I know it means a lot to our families and our service members, and it’s a great way to honor the sacrifice of their soldiers.”