The Knicks Hoops for Troops program will proudly honor and recognize the brave men and women across the Tri-State who have served or currently serve in the United States Armed Forces. As part of our season-long military appreciation efforts, the Knicks will recognize military personnel in-arena at select games throughout the season who have demonstrated a commitment of service that has great impact on the community, whose service or sacrifice has a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of others and whose actions provide positive inspiration for others.
NOVEMBER 2021 | JAMES S. NIZZA
For Military Appreciation Night, the Knicks were honored to recognize and celebrate Chief Master Sergeant James S. Nizza, who recently returned from deployment. With over 29 years of military service, Nizza began his decorated military career with the New York Air National Guard as a United States Air Force Reserve. Now he is the Fire Protection Superintendent at the 106th Rescue Wing, Francis S. Gabreski Airport. While serving in the Fire Protection Unit, Chief Nizza led in establishing the Urban Reach and Rescue team and assisting the World Trade Center Recovery in the aftermath of September 11th. In addition to his military service, he participated in several humanitarian relief missions, including Panama and Honduras, Iraqi Freedom, and the Allies Refuge. During his time in the military, he has been decorated with the Air Force Achievement Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the New York Humane Service to New York State Medal, and multiple other awards and achievements.
Chief Nizza presented the game ball alongside Knicks Legend John Starks, who surprised him earlier with a personalized jersey. The Knicks are proud to celebrate Chief Nizza and salute his dedication to serving our country.
JANUARY 2019 | VITA TRAUSE
The Knicks are proud to honor and celebrate World War II veteran Vito Trause this season. Vito Trause, 93, was supposed to graduate high school in 1945, but wasn’t able to make the ceremony because he was being held as a prisoner of war in Germany. After 73 years, he was finally able to walk across the stage in the summer of 2018 to receive his high school diploma. During his time in service, Trause received many honors and awards including a purple heart, three bronze stars, a combat infantry badge, a POW Medal and the American campaign medal.
During the on-court presentation, Knicks Legend Larry Johnson surprised Trause with a personalized jersey and a graduation cap signed by the entire current Knicks team.
The Knicks salute Vito Trause for his commitment to our country and dedication to service.
NOVEMBER 2018 | THE ENNIS FAMILY
The Knicks and non-profit organization Folds of Honor came together to recognize the Ennis family on Veteran’s Day. The Ennis parents, Trevor and Ina, both served in the United States Air Force for over 20 years.
US Air Force Master Sergeant Trevor Ennis was injured while serving under Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was deployed to Europe, Asia and the Middle East and has been decorated with many awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal and The Air Force Commendations Medal. US Air Force Technical Sergeant Ina Ennis also served and was disabled in the line of duty while serving under Operation Iraqi Freedom. TSGT Ennis was decorated with the Air Force Commendation Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, The Air Force Achievement Medal with 5 oak leaf clusters, and numerous other medals, citations, and awards.
Their eldest son, Jahmal, is a college senior at Rutgers University. We donated $10,000 to Folds of Honor to help support students who, like Jahmal, have had parents injured in the line of duty. This scholarship will help him as he studies biological science.
KNICKS CELEBRATE LOCAL VETERANS
The Knicks, as part of the Hoops for Troops platform, celebrated local veteran colleagues and their families with an interactive night out at the Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewery on November 30th. This private event included tours of the brewery for veterans and their families, beer tastings, and meet-and-greets with favorite Knicks legend Larry Johnson and current stand-out Tim Hardaway Jr. The USO Show Troupe performed for guests and the Knicks honored all Veteran Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewers with custom basketballs.
MARCH 2018 | ALFREDO AND JOSLEY DE LOS SANTOS
The Knicks and non-profit organization, Folds of Honor, came together to recognize the De Los Santos family on March 19th.
Staff Sergeant De Los Santos was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Harlem as a teenager. He attended City College and after graduation began working for newspapers as a graphic designer, before the terrorist attacks of September 11 led him to join the Army.
Working in the Special Operations Command, he served in Iraq and then Afghanistan and has several commendations, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. in October of 2008, his team was attacked overseas and the explosion tore off his leg. During his recovery process, he discovered hand cycling and became very competitive in the sport, competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics and placing 4th.
Alfredo’s daughter, Josley, admires her father’s journey, as it gives her motivation and courage to push for everything she wants in life. Her father inspires her to never give up. To recognize the contributions and sacrifices that Alfredo and his family have given to serve our country, the Knicks awarded a $10,000 educational scholarship to Josely to continue her studies in Athletic Training at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York. Josley was surprised by the scholarship at center court, presented by Knicks Legend, John Starks and U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Rocky Sickmann, who was one of 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days during the Iran hostage crisis.
VETERAN'S DAY 2017 | U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY VETERANS
As part of Military Appreciation Day and Hoops for Troops the Knicks honored a special group at The Garden on Veteran’s Day. This group of Veterans have served on multiple combat deployments in support to our nation. Today, they are part of an essential team who educate, train and inspire the future leaders of the Army at the U.S. Military Academy and truly embody the Academy's values of Duty, Honor, Country.
- Sargent Chanee Carson
- Sargent First Class Carlos Navas Martinez
- Captain Matt Lynes
- Captain Maria Mosley
- Sargent Cawley
- Major Ireka Sanders
- Lieutenant Captain Gerving
- Sargent First Class Brian Wray
- Specialist Benjamin Lundqvist
DECEMBER 2017 | NAVY DIVER FIRST CLASS JOHN SCALISE
Navy Diver First Class Scalise was born in New Haven, Ct and enlisted in the Navy in the spring of 2006. Volunteering for the Navy Diver Program, he graduated from the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida in December 2006.
Navy Diver First Class Scalise had the privilege to perform two deployments while stationed aboard a Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit. The first in Support of the African Partnership Station in 2011 where he worked with the Liberian Coast Guard in the development of their diving program. The second was in support of a J-PAC mission located in Papua, New Guinea where they located six WWII airplane loss sites. Additionally, his company was first on scene for the removal of the USS Guardian which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines.
Navy Diver First Class Scalise inspires his Sailors and leads by example. While serving at the Naval Submarine School, he was responsible for the High Risk Submarine Escape Training where he not only saved a student’s life, but also prevented permanent injury after an incident. He’s received the Navy Commendation Medal, four Navy Achievement Medals and honors including, Diving Salvage Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, and Expeditionary Warfare Specialist.
APRIL 2017 | TYSHAWN JENKINS
The Knicks honored Staff Sergeant TyShawn Jenkins of the United States Air Force. Sergeant Jenkins is a 108th Wing Intelligence Specialist, but has served as a fuels systems technician, with the Maintenance Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard, Joint Base, McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Additionally, Sergeant Jenkins is a member of the Wing's Honor Guard, which serves as a visible example of the Air Force in various ceremonies including change of commands and funerals for veterans. Sergeant Jenkins has received many awards during his career, including an Air Force Achievement Medal, an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal.
Tyshawn is an active member of his community in a variety of ways. He is the founder and owner of Retouch Factory, a photography and design company, which donates a portion of their proceeds to charities. The Knicks were so impressed with Tyshawn’s photography abilities that we afforded him the opportunity to capture the Knicks vs. Celtics game on April 2, 2017.
MARCH 2017 | MELISSA SINGER
Sergeant First Class Melissa Singer was honored as March's winner of the Hoops for Troops award. SFC Singer has served over 25 years in the Army with 19 years of active duty including two combat deployments, all while juggling a family with three kids, and service to her community. In addition to receiving a Combat Action Badge, 7 Army Commendation Medals, and 5 Army Achievement medals, SFC Singer is highly active in her community. She is the organizer of Operation Love Thy Neighbor, which provides assistance to disabled veterans with home maintenance and repairs free of charge through donations and fundraising. SFC Singer is a trusted advisor to veterans returning home and is a current member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
FEBRUARY 2017 | COMMAND CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT MARK COZZUPOLI
The Knicks honored Command Chief Master Sergeant Mark Cozzupoli who is currently serving the in the United States Air Force and has been in service for 23 years. After his fifth voluntary deployment to Afghanistan, he received a Meritorious Service Medal and was selected as the top Senior Non Commissioned Officer for Bagram Air Base. This significant accomplishment, in addition to his many other achievements, led to his selection as the Senior Enlisted Leader for Stewart Air National Guard Base, where is he is currently serving.
Mark works tirelessly in the community, coaching youth sports and supporting many of the community initiatives of his base. He coordinates visits to local Veterans and Children's Hospitals for his Airmen and continues to lead by example as the top enlisted member for the 105th Airlift Wing.
JANUARY 2017 | MAJOR VINCENT CERCHIONE
The Knicks honored Major Vincent Cerchione from Rosedale, New York, as January’s Hoops for Troops award recipient. Major Cerchione first enlisted in the Army as an Infantryman in 1998, and has served both abroad and at home.
Major Cerchione was awarded the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service for his dedication to serve the nation and the community, and is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army.
DECEMBER 2016 | SERGEANT FIRST CLASS KIM POLK
The Knicks recognized SSG Kimberly Polk who is an Army Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom III and National Guard member of 17 years. She has received over 20 combined State and Federal medals including two Army Commendation Medals. After 9/11 she moved to New York to defend the State and has even displayed her devotion to NY by helping with recovery projects after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. We thank SSG Polk for her tireless dedication to our country.
NOVEMBER 2016 | SERGEANT FIRST CLASS LUCIANO YULFO
The New York Knicks recognized United States Army retired Sergeant First Class Luciano Yulfo as the first 2016-17 recipient of the Hoops for Troops Award. Sergeant Yulfo served 36 years in the military, having deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In July 2014, he was injured in Afghanistan, and due to the extent of his injuries, this resulted in his medical retirement. Sergeant Yulfo is described as someone who has consistently gone above and beyond for the people of his community since his return from deployment. He's received numerous awards and medals throughout his military career including an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, and a National Defense Service Medal.
He was honored during the Knicks vs. Nets game at center court with Knicks Legend Larry Johnson. During his on-court presentation, the Knicks, in conjunction with Paws of War and Cow Harbor Warriors also surprised SFC Yulfo with a service dog, named Murphy, after waiting over 18 months on a service dog waiting list.
APRIL 2016 | MICHAEL GIELBEDA
The Knicks recognized U.S. Air Force Captain Michael Gielbeda for the month of April. Michael has served in the military for the past 18 years, volunteering to serve on four deployments to Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan twice, spending over three years in combat and helping save countless lives. He’s highly decorated in the military with over 25 federal medals and ribbons. Michael has received the Presidential Volunteer Service medal four times for his work in the local community. He aided the New York State Department of Parks with a truly green friendly building, cleaned up our coast lines to prevent pollution and has helped numerous veterans who have returned from combat.
MARCH 2016 | KYLE CARPENTER
The New York Knicks recognized retired U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter for the month of March.
In July 2010, Lance Corporal Carpenter deployed to Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On November 21, 2010, while joining his team to fight off a Taliban attack in a small village, he suffered severe injuries to his face and right arm from the blast of an enemy hand grenade, including multiple shrapnel wounds and the loss of his right eye. After-action reports state that he threw himself in front of the grenade to protect a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. Kyle is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.
FEBRUARY 2016 | NANCY SCHILIRO
Retired U.S. Marine Corps, Nancy Schilliro joined the Marine Reserves in April 2003. She trained for 10 months in embarkation logistics, and was deployed to a base in Al Asad, Iraq in March 2004. Near the end of her deployment, she was injured when a mortar round went off near a large diesel fuel bladder. The incident shattered the retina in her right eye causing it to be removed and having to install a prosthetic eye. In 2009, she has transitioned into a career with Wounded Warrior Project as a benefits liaison, working strictly for Project Odyssey, to provide others the same experience she had by participating in Project Odyssey. Nancy has a purple heart for being injured in combat.
JANUARY 2016 | DAVID BRAHE
Celebrating the Knicks Hoops for Troops program, the New York Knicks recognized retired U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant David Brahe for the month of January.
From 1993-1996, David served in Operation Restore Hope and Operation Distant Runner. During the first operation, David and his fellow Marines created a protected environment for conducting humanitarian operations in southern Somalia and routinely took sniper fire working patrols and security. During Operations Distant Runner, David and his compatriots helped evacuate 148 American citizens and 82 others from civil unrest in Rwanda.
David was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1997 at the rank of Sergeant and has received numerous commendations for meritorious achievement and exceptional service. He has had a great impact not only on our nation, but also a lasting impact on hundreds of others within the foreign countries he has assisted.
DECEMBER 2015 | JIM DEVARY
Celebrating Knicks Hoops for Troops program, the New York Knicks recognized Staff Sergeant Jim Devary for the month of December. Jim enlisted in the United States Army in 1999, and has since served in several units and assignments.
Jim deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 with the 82nd Airborne and to Iraq in 2004 with the I-69th in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Where he patrolled Route Irish (Airport Road) when it was considered the most dangerous road in the world. As a squad leader he patrolled Baghdad Airport Road and admirably he returned all 24 soldiers from his platoon home with zero killed in action.
Jim enjoyed an experience at the MSG Training Facility on December 14, where we met the entire New York Knicks team, Coach Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff as well as watched practice.
NOVEMBER 2015 | RAFAEL PANIAGUA
To celebrate the launch of the Knicks Hoops for Troops program, The New York Knicks recognized sergeant Rafael Paniagua for the month of November. Sergeant Paniagua joined the New York national guard in 1977, and has since served in several units and assignments in his military career, such as his deployment to the World Trade Center on 9/11 as security detail for the FBI. In 2004, while serving in Iraq, Sergeant Paniagua's truck was hit with an RPG-rocket propelled grenade. The truck was overturned and his team was heavily engaged in a fire fight.
The injuries led to 2 brain, back, and foot surgeries. He has recovered well in the last few years and spends his time volunteering with the Wounded Warriors project as a peer mentor, helping others who have been through traumatic experiences and injuries to keep America safe, and free. Sergeant Paniagua was honored at the Knicks Hoops for Troops night vs. LA Lakers at center court. He was presented with a personalized Knicks jersey and challenge coin for his commitment to service.
Rafael and his wife also enjoyed an experience at the MSG Training Facility on November 5th, where we met the entire New York Knicks team, Coach Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff as well as watched practice with Knicks Alum John Starks.