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Vandenberg Airman named MVP, helps US Armed Forces Basketball team win gold

WASHINGTON - 2nd Lt. Matthew Holland receives a plaque from Gen. William L. Shelton, the Air Force Space Command commander, at an All Air Force tournament here in 2010. (U.S. Army photo/Tim Hipps)

WASHINGTON - 2nd Lt. Matthew Holland receives a plaque from Gen. William L. Shelton, the Air Force Space Command commander, at an All Air Force tournament here in 2010. (U.S. Army photo/Tim Hipps)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Airman stationed here contributed to the United States Armed Forces Basketball team's gold medal finish at the International Basketball Tournament in Mons, Belgium, on Dec. 4, 2010.

2nd Lt. Mathew Holland, a 614th Air and Space Operations Center intelligence analyst, was selected to compete with the Armed Forces Basketball team at the 47th edition of the International Basketball Tournament after his performance, and off-court professionalism, at an Armed Forces tournament in Washington, D.C., in August 2010.

After being released from duty, Lieutenant Holland joined the team in an eight-day training camp at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, in preparation for the upcoming tournament in Belgium.

Once the team had the opportunity to train together, Lieutenant Holland and team went on to compete in the tournament against military squads from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The first two games of the tournament were earned with ease, as the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball team defeated Italy 95-59 on Nov. 30, 2010, and the United Kingdom 103-62 on Dec. 1, 2010.

Stiffer competition came as the U.S. faced off against Latvia on Dec. 3, 2010. Lieutenant Holland contributed to the U.S. team with his 22 points and 12 rebounds as the team prevailed and beat Latvia 83-70. The win over Latvia put the U.S. team in the title game with Lithuania.

During the championship game between the U.S. and Lithuania on Dec. 4, 2010, both teams battled back and forth for the lead in a nail-biting game. As the final buzzer signaled the end of the match, once again in the tournament, the U.S. team was the victor by defeating Lithuania 78-71. Lieutenant Holland had 14 points, helping the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball team win their first International Basketball Tournament since 2004.

At the conclusion of the championship game, and a unanimous vote, Vandenberg's Lieutenant Holland was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"It was an amazing feeling," said Lieutenant Holland. "I was honored to be able to represent the United States, the military and the Air Force as a whole. Being selected for the team took dedication, but as I've learned from my parents, hard work and persistence pays off. I would like to thank everyone who has afforded me the opportunity to participate in this tournament."

Participating in numerous sports and athletic activities throughout his adolescent years, Lieutenant Holland found his niche in basketball during his sophomore year of high school - a common path for athletes like Lieutenant Holland who towers at 6 feet 6 inches tall.

His height and talents afforded him the opportunity to play two years of Division I basketball at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. During his athletics at the academy, Lieutenant Holland traveled and played with the team at locations all over the country. He has played in National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and has even played in the renowned Madison Square Garden, N.Y., which is the home of the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks. Although Lieutenant Holland has an extensive background in basketball, one memorable experience clearly stands out.

"Wearing the letters (U.S.A.) on my jersey while playing overseas was probably my favorite basketball memory - I am really hoping to be able to do this in the future," Lieutenant Holland said. "The next big Armed Forces tournament is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July."