KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Well, let’s wrap up one unforgettable week for the Huskies.
First of all, it can’t be stated enough in this first week of November, as we honor veterans, that being around these remarkable men and women is enough to inspire anyone. Their discipline, their diligence and their willing to sacrifice for all of us deserves our recognition.
“The men and women who join today know what they are getting into,” said Col. James Mingo, raised in East Lyme, who is executive officer to the army’s commanding general here in Europe. “They know there is a good chance they will see combat. It makes it even more impressive that they made the choice they make.”
Col. Mingo commanded a tank battalion in Baghdad in 2004 and 05, so he has been in harm’s way himself. The colonel said he made “no less than 15 calls” to secure tickets for this game for his son, Jack, and daughter, Jessica.
It’s also the families of the soldiers who must sacrifice. moving far away from home, or moving from place to place. The children of soldiers are so resilient, they go with the flow. Dr. Anne Hubbard of Berlin (our Berlin, that is) has been here a long time, teaching at the intermediate school on Ramstein Air Base. You may have seen her holding the sign. She was one of the many who came down to court side to meet and take a picture with Jim Calhoun.
The UConn players were moved by it all. Shabazz Napier was emotional when he spoke about the woman he met in Landstuhl Medical Center, who said he “took her pain away.” … Niels Giffey, in the lobby the hotel after the game, was saying, “it was everything I expected … more, actually.”
The game itself was unique. With 3,100 in the stands, but in a very large hangar, the noise level was not overwhelming – an acoustics things, not enthusiasm. The crowd, except for the fraction from Connecticut or Michigan, was rooting for both teams and was greatly happy and entertained – despite the lateness of the hour.
But, you know, as soon as this game was over it was back to business. The massive hangar doors were slid open as the workers immediate began breaking down the court and grandstand. They had to get that C-5 back in there.
The players, too, had to leave. It was 3 a.m. and they had a morning flight home. No real locker room there, they had to get back to the hotel. So there wasn’t a ton of chances for typical post-game interviews, just had to grab someone here or there on the fly. Hope to get some deeper player reaction back home.
A few tidbits on the game. … Omar Calhoun didn’t score from the field, after getting 44 in two exhibition games. The step up in competition form Division II schools to Michigan State was enormous, of course, and at times he looked more like a freshman than he has so far. Plus, Tom Izzo was clearly aware of him and worked his defense accordingly. So games like this will happen from time to time.
R.J. Evans and Enosch Wolf gave the Huskies some quality minutes, a couple of things I wouldn’t have imagined tweeting, say, last March or April. Evans, at Holy Cross, usually played well against power-conference teams – like UConn – and he showed he wasn’t intimidated by the step-up in competition here.
It’s going to be a rough turnaround for UConn. A day to shake off the jet lag – and I know from experience it takes more than a day – then it’s practice Monday and Vermont at Gampel on Tuesday. … Then to the Virgin Islands for games Friday, Saturday and Monday. Lot of games, lot of miles in between. But it’s funny how a huge win can negate fatigue. “It’s worth [the trip] when you get the effort,” Kevin Ollie said. “You’re not going to win every battle, but if you put in the effort you’re going to come out on top. We put in the effort.”
As good a way as any to sum up this remarkable week. Here are some pics from the week.