Men's National Team Holds Practice At West Point After Meeting With Cadets
West Point, New York
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski had planned for his team to get a good run in Monday afternoon when they practiced at West Point following a tour of the U.S. Military Academy and meet-and-greet with the cadets.
However, following a solemn visit to West Point Cemetery and a morning of bonding with cadets and officers, Krzyzewski said he decided to call an audible. What was scheduled to be a two-hour practice was more a mix of practice and play with the cadets.
While the crowd was excited to watch the National Team in action, they were even more pumped to see members of both the men’s and women’s Army basketball teams join the fray. At one point, they played an extended game of Knockout with the National Team. The mood was light and there was plenty of laughter.
The National Team arrived in New York Sunday in advance of two exhibition games that will be played Aug. 20 versus the Dominican Republic and Aug. 22against Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden, but the first order of business was Monday’s trip to West Point in support of USA Basketball’s Commitment to Service collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense.
The day began with a visit to West Point Cemetery, where three families of military members lost in battle met with players, followed by the cadets demonstrating some of their most challenging training modules for the team. Before the USA’s training session, players and coaches had lunch in the mess hall with more than 4,000 cadets.
While the visit was part of USA Basketball’s Hoops for Troops program, it was also part of Krzyzewski’s routine. Since taking over the Men’s National Team in 2005, he’s tried to schedule team excursions like this to bring the team together.
“Patriotism and selfless service are two really amazing concepts to feel,” Krzyzewski told USAB.com in July. “And I think you only do it by taking them to locations where they might feel it. Certainly, West Point is one of those locations.”
Of course, West Point is near and dear to Kyzyzewski. He played for Army from 1966-69, then coached the Black Knights basketball team from 1970-80.
“For me, it’s my alma mater and it was my first coaching assignment. I still do quite a bit with the Academy. I believe in it. I believe it’s the best leadership school in the world. For me to be a leader of our national team and bring my team to my alma mater, and the place that I love, to try to show them a little bit about that place, that’s a dream come true.”
Kyrie Irving said it was an honor to be invited to West Point, tour the academy and meet with the cadets.
“It was such a great opportunity,” he said. “Just trying to learn from them as much as I can about selfless service.”
Irving told ESPN that one of the best things about playing for USA Basketball has been the brotherhood between players who have come together as teammates after facing each other as opponents during the NBA season. Now, Irving added, “We have a job to do for the nation.”
When the two-hour practice at Christl Arena ended, Krzyzewski addressed the crowd one last time.
“Thank you so much for inviting us into your home,” he said. “This entire day has been a fabulous one.”