USA Basketball Scores With America Supports You
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2006 Servicemembers' children had a chance to shoot hoops with some of the nation's top basketball stars at the Pentagon Athletic Center today.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (right) presents a USA Basketball jersey to Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. during the "Hoops for Troops" program at the Pentagon Athletic Center April 6. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
USA Basketball, the governing body for U.S. men's and women's basketball, came to the Pentagon to join the "America Supports You" program today. The hoops organization committed to a three-year effort to actively support the nation's troops, including basketball clinics by star coaches and players for servicemembers and their children.
"USA Basketball has had a long association with the United States armed forces, and we are very proud to expand this relationship today through the 'Hoops for Troops' program," Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press conference.
"Through this program, military members and their families will be able to attend selected USA men's and women's basketball senior national team practices and exhibition games," he said. "In addition, senior national teams will make visits and host clinics, like the one here today, for servicemembers and their families."
America Supports You showcases Americans' support for servicemembers and their families. Giambastiani noted that more than 200 grassroots organizations and more than 20 corporate sponsors have joined the program since its launch in November 2004.
Coaches and team executives had met earlier with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials to celebrate the USAB-ASY collaboration.
"The ultimate goal for (USA Basketball) is not just to win a gold medal," said national team coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 1969 West Point graduate and former Army officer. "The ultimate goal for us is to serve this country with the dignity it deserves and the class it deserves, and to serve as an example for others as to how to do it.
"That's basically what our military is doing in harm's way," the Duke University basketball coach noted, "and we appreciate that. Hopefully we will be able to do that on the basketball court."
Krzyzewski mentioned his son-in-law, who left for Baghdad yesterday to finish the last five months of his yearlong tour there. "It makes me feel good to see him and his belief in a cause and his enthusiasm to serve," he said.
After the press conference, players and coaches held a one-hour clinic with 45 eager children, ages 8 to 12, the sons and daughters of servicemembers.
Chris Mullin, former U.S. Olympic player and NBA star, said working with these children was a pleasure. "Their parents are serving us. We're just trying to give a little back to them," he said. "The way they serve our country and protect us, what we're doing is very small. It's been my pleasure to be here, and I thank God for our troops."
David Robinson, former Olympic and NBA star and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, said the partnership is a phenomenal opportunity.
"Our troops right now, especially as we see them potentially lay down their lives for our country, they're really the heroes," he said. "I think it's great for our players to understand what it means to serve. We get to serve the people who are serving us. It's a blessing."
Robinson said his favorite part of the day so far was getting to interact with servicemembers again.
"Being in the Navy, I've always had a great experience with military guys everywhere," he said to a group of sailors. "I always look forward to coming back and being able to serve you guys."
Robinson, Mullin, Krzyzewski and others went on camera to tell servicemembers overseas how much they appreciate the troops' hard work.
Others involved in today's clinic included:
- Val Ackerman, president of USA Basketball;
- Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball;
- Ruthie Bolton, former Olympic team player;
- Chuck Daly, former Olympic coach and NBA Detroit Pistons coach;
- Chastity Melvin, former Olympic team player; and
- Buck Williams, former Olympic team player and NBA player.
Melanie Boykin, 12, called the event "really cool" and said she was very excited. "I didn't expect to meet NBA players," she said.
Her father, Air Force Col. Al Boykin, said he was happy to see both his son and daughter here interacting with the players and coaches. Boykin volunteers as a coach for both his kids' teams.
"We all love the game," he said. "It's probably just as exciting for me to see these big stars as it is for my kids."