USA Basketball Men’s And Women’s National Teams Honor Troops With Clinic, Open Practice
One day after arriving in the nation's capital, the 2012 USA Basketball Men's National Team took its practice to the D.C. Armory to honor America’s service members on Saturday afternoon.
As part of USA Basketball's Hoops For Troops initiative, a crowd of 3,100 military members and their families attended an open practice as part of the World Basketball Festival, held in partnership with NIKE Inc.
"Its great," said Russell Westbrook. "It’s a great experience to be able to come in and to play in front of the troops. They have done so much for our country and they still do.”
Prior to practice, USA Basketball Women’s National Team members Seimone Augustus, Swin Cash, Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Lindsay Whalen, as well as USA assistant coach Doug Bruno and USA head coach Geno Auriemma, held a clinic for daughters of military members at the same location.
As practice wrapped up, the 12 members of the men's national team and the five available women's national team players received a flag from the uniform of a soldier and an Old Guard challenge coin.
“This is a huge event," said Mike Krzyzewksi, USA and Duke University Hall of Fame head coach. "We invited the chairs of the joint chiefs out for dinner last night with our staff, and so we had a great meal and we shared our thanks. I'm very close friends with Marty Dempsey. Even during this past Duke season, he was at one of our home games and afterwards we met with the NBA to try to help orchestrate today. Today has been in the works for a few months, and I thought it was beautifully done by Nike, the NBA, USA Basketball and of course our military. The exchange of the flags from the people who are actually serving our country on a day to day basis. We were talking about last night, and we thought it was the single biggest gesture that they could give us, in support of us. Taking them, accepting them would be in honor of them. Today was a special day."
“There’s no greater feeling than performing in front of our soldiers and our troops and stuff like that," said Chris Paul. "Because they go out and protect our freedom day in and day out and the least we can do is come out here, have a little fun and play some ball because when we go to London for the Olympics, this is who we represent. Its not about the last names on the backs of our jerseys, its about that U-S-A on the front.”
"It’s been incredible," chimed in Tyson Chandler. "To play in front of the troops and to see some of the wounded warriors and to get this inspiration before we go over and start this journey, it was just incredible. And it was an honor for us to be able to in front of them.”
See the event for yourself in our PHOTO GALLERY.