July 16, 2012
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service) – The men’s and women’s U.S. national basketball teams, which are preparing for the upcoming Olympics in London, put on a show for service members, their families, and other fans at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory here yesterday.
The “Hoops for Troops” program, launched in 2006, provides support for the U.S. military and their families through programs, events, and partnerships, according to the USA Basketball website.
The audience included Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. James “Sandy” A. Winnefeld Jr., JCS vice chairman; and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the chairman’s senior enlisted advisor.
Military children, service members and fans were treated to activities including a girls’ basketball clinic led by members of the women’s U.S. national basketball team, a skills challenge where troops teamed up with NBA players, viewing of the men’s U.S. national team conducting practice and a basketball scrimmage.
“It was awesome. It was just a tremendous honor to be here,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Drey said. “It was a great experience, and I was very excited.”
Drey, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command, represented the Navy and was paired with Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams for the skills challenge, which the duo won.
“My son got to watch me do it too, so I was very happy,” Drey said. “It was such an honor to represent the Navy and the men and women of the military and their families.
“And also having the wounded warriors here,” he continued. “It was so awesome to be out on the court, even just by the NBA players [and] Team USA — the team that’s going to represent our country … it was a great experience.”
The USA Basketball players were equally happy to have an opportunity to meet with service members, their families and fans.
“They humble us. I mean they do so much for our country and … represent our flag,” said Kevin Love, power forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves. “We just go out there and play basketball. So they are the reason we have our freedom.”
Service members “protect and serve so we can live the lives we live today,” Love added. “So it’s pretty cool to be out there performing in front of them but they’re doing all the good deeds for us, really, so we have to pay homage to them.”
Others such as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas were touched when members of the ceremonial 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Army’s “Old Guard” presented the patches from their uniform sleeves to USA Basketball team members as Dempsey wished the players well during the London Olympics.
“It was a great day for USA Basketball, for the Olympic movement and the Olympic team,” Bilas said. “I think it was just a great day for our country.”
The basketball analyst noted U.S. national men’s team Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., served in the Army for five years, which has inspired a lot of what the team does in emulating the military “on a much smaller scale.”
Bilas said he was unable to put into words what it meant to him to see the troops take their American flag patches off their uniforms and present then to the basketball players.
“It was so moving,” he said.