U.S. players visit base in S. Korea
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
SEOUL, South Korea -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski knew the drill.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and the rest of the U.S. basketball team got into combat uniforms and took marching orders from former U.S. Army officer Krzyzewski on Monday during a visit to Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul.
Krzyzewski was stationed in South Korea for a while during his five years in the Army from 1969-74. He's back in Seoul preparing his U.S. squad for the world championships starting in Japan later this week.
Wade and his teammates went through some practice maneuvers, thrilling the crowd with alley-oops, slams and precision shooting from the 3-point line.
"It felt great to come here and do something for the troops," Wade said. "It definitely helps us get motivated by realizing there are a lot of people behind us and we're representing our country."
After playing South Korea in an exhibition game on Tuesday, the squad will travel to Japan and play its first game of the world championships against Puerto Rico on Saturday in Sapporo.
The U.S. still must cut one of its players before the world championships. The roster was reduced to 13 when Gilbert Arenas strained his groin during practice Monday and was unable to compete for a spot on the 12-player roster.
"We know Gilbert is really disappointed," team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. "He's done a great job. "It's an unfortunate situation, but he is not going to be able to continue on."
Coach Krzyzewski said the trip to Yongsan, home to 25,000 personnel, was well worth the effort of getting up early and practicing in the stifling heat of the base gymnasium.
"It added depth to our trip," said Krzyzewski. "To be able to meet the servicemen and women and thank them for their service was a great feeling."
Some 29,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.
Not surprisingly, the visit went down well with the U.S. troops.
"That was a lot of fun," said staff sergeant Eric Jordan from Detroit. "It was a privilege and an honor. For them to take the time to come here is impressive and means a lot to us."
In Japan, the U.S. team will be bidding to snap a string of disappointing finishes at the world championships. The United States finished sixth at the worlds in 2002 and third in 1998. The last time the Americans won the tournament was 1994.
Under Krzyzewski, the U.S. team has looked impressive, winning four straight tuneup matches, including Sunday's 111-88 win over Lithuania in Seoul.
Along with Puerto Rico, the U.S. team is grouped with China, Slovenia, Italy and Senegal in the preliminary round.