USO delivers slam dunk for 'Hoops for Troops'
November 9, 2011
NBA players boost morale for Soldiers, families, keiki
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- The sound of sneakers squeaking against the gym floor at the Martinez Physical Fitness Center, here, filled the gymnasium as more than 100 eager children got the opportunity to learn from their basketball idols, Oct. 27.
Later that evening, more than 2,500 screaming fans filled the bleachers as Soldiers took to the court and got the opportunity to show NBA players what they are made of.
Nine of today's biggest names in basketball "hooped" it up with troops and children stationed in Hawaii as part of the "Hoops for Troops" USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour, Oct. 23-28.
Making the journey across the Pacific were Chicago point guard Derrick Rose; Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans; center-forward Al Horford and guard Joe Johnson, both of the Atlantic Hawks; Charlotte point guard D.J. Augustin; New Jersey center Brook Lopez; Phoenix center Robin Lopez; Washington center JaVale McGee; and Miami forward Mike Miller.
"This has been a great experience for me, and I never thought I would get the opportunity to be a part of something like this," Augustin said. "It's definitely not what it looks like in the movies or on TV, and we owe (service members) a lot."
During the weeklong tour, NBA players led two youth clinics for kids ages 9-17, toured military facilities on island and played one-on-one with service members.
"When I found out Derek Rose was coming here, I was pumped," said Benjamin Gardner, 10, one of the kids who got to participate in the youth clinic, here. "I was really excited about getting to learn from him."
"We don't always get opportunities like this, and them coming here makes us feel special," said Staff Sgt. Mario Bradford, U.S. Army-Pacific, who played in an intermixed basketball game with the pros, here, Oct. 27, which pitted the white team against the red team in an all-out battle.
Most of the time, Soldiers were matched up with each other, but occasional cross-matches had the crowd on its feet and cheering for its overmatched-but-enthusiastic military comrades.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it's one that I will never forget," said Spc. James Randall, Movement Control Team, 18th Transportation Detachment, 45th Special Troops Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Command, as sweat poured down his face after the intense game where he went to head-to-head with several NBA players.
Soldiers with the red team pose for a photo before meeting their professional NBA teammates. The red team faced off against the white team in an intense match-up.
The pros clearly weren't worried about getting injured, going hard to the rim, dunking the ball and putting on quite a show of athleticism for fans.
Many of the league's top players have played in similar goodwill games across the country, due to the NBA lockout. The season would have started Tuesday.
Taking full advantage of the spare time, the USO partnered with East West Private, a Cincinnati-based global market expansion firm that aims to serve as a bridge between international and U.S. based companies, and with the Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and entertainment company with global expertise in athlete management, consulting, media rights, partnership and business development and action sports, to make this tour possible.
To also show support for America's armed forces, Wilson Sporting Goods donated 200 basketballs, Adidas provided 90 polos and Carson Wrapped Hershey's Chocolates contributed hundreds of candy bars for the players to distribute to military families.
"Supporting our military has always been important to me," Rose said, while signing autographs and posing for photos with his young fans. "It is an honor for me to be able to give back to those who give us so much.
"This is the first time I've been on a military base, and it's been great," Rose continued, as fans chanted "M-V-P." "I know everybody's happy that we're here, and we're happy to be here."