Grissom Airman to try out for All-Air Force Basketball Team

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chris Massey
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

At 6'11" Akinyemi Solanke stands out in a crowd. That attention just may get him a spot on the All-Air Force Men's Basketball Team.

Solanke, a structural apprentice with the 434th Civil Engineer Squadron, is no stranger to the basketball court. That knowledge and skill earned him an invite to try out for the team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackand, Texas May 14-31.

A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Solanke came to the U.S. in 2010 on a basketball scholarship to Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, Ark., a junior college.

He continued his basketball career at the University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, Michigan, a Division I program, where he graduated in 2014 earning a Bachelor’s Degree in economics.

Next, Solanke moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where he played for the Indianapolis Diesels, a team in the Premier Basketball League.

After two years with the Diesels, Solanke decided to move on from basketball and decided to join the U.S. Air Force Reserve, graduating basic military training in 2017.

While at technical school, his towering stature was noticed by a prior-service Marine who had previously played with the Marine basketball team.

He insisted that Solanke try out for the Air Force team and continuously reminded Solanke about the unique opportunity.

The Marine’s diligence paid off.  

"He told me that I should try out and he kept persisting and reminding me every day, and drumming it in my ears,” said Solanke.  “I just got tired and said ‘okay’, I’ll go ahead and submit the application and the rest was history.”

While in seasonal training at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, he realized his conditioning needed some work.

“The squadron had a 5K every Friday.  I can remember my first 5K, I came in last,” Solanke said.  “I found out that I was totally out of shape and just because of that fact, I decided to run every weekend just to get in shape.  After that, it has helped my physical health tremendously.  I also think that is what helped me put in more effort and will help me perform better with the All-Air Force Basketball Team.”

Airmen who make the team will compete in the Armed Forces Championship at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, June 1-9 and then the Military World Games at Wuhan, China, Oct. 15-28.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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