Ducks, Hoyas learn lessons in South Korea

November, 9, 2013

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea -- Brig. Gen. Erik Peterson gave a sobering talk Friday night, offering a reminder of the mission of Camp Humphreys as it stands in constant readiness for any threat from the north.

It was under that backdrop that Georgetown and Oregon arrived and immersed themselves within the base this week for the second-annual Armed Forces Classic, played before 2,100 servicemen and women at the Super Gym.

"When they were playing the national anthem, I got chills," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "The servicemen and women were so good to us here. We came here to thank them, and they went out of their way to make us feel special. You can't imagine being here one or two years at a time and sacrifices they make with and for their families."

Many of the troops are career military with families. But more were just young adults, the same age or younger than the players on the two teams they had come to watch.

Oregon, ranked No. 19 in the preseason, beat Georgetown 82-75 behind a trio of transfers; Joseph Young (Houston), Mike Moser (UNLV) and Jason Calliste (Detroit) scored 24, 15 and 16 points, respectively. For the Hoyas, UCLA transfer center Joshua Smith played a surprising 27 minutes and finished with 25 points.

Those were the stats. And yes, this game counts as much as any other nonconference game for either team. But the value of traveling more than 6,000 miles for many of the players will not be forgotten.

"It was the best basketball experience I've ever had playing basketball," Moser said. "We got a chance to do this, hang out with them a bit."

The players couldn't grasp that they were the same age as the servicemen and women. Young said he had to ask the troops how old they were and did a double-take when the responses were "20 and 21."

"It was eye-opening," said Young. "It was really a blessing to be here."

Georgetown coach John Thompson III reminded his players after they toured the helicopter hangar this week that this was not a trip to the Smithsonian in Washington.

"It was an unbelievable experience," Georgetown senior guard Markel Starks said. "I had never seen a helicopter in person. I couldn't get over all the computerization and the technical things. It was unreal, talking to the soldiers and hearing their stories and backgrounds. There was a lot I could relate to and a lot I couldn't. This will be an experience I always remember. I wish I could do it again."

The Ducks and Hoyas learned a little about basketball too. Mostly, Georgetown learned about Smith, and Smith about himself.

"Me getting only four rebounds and being the biggest guy on the floor is unacceptable," said Smith, who received a waiver to play immediately after leaving UCLA in December.

"I can't let my man score and be a liability like when Moser hit those midrange and high-post shots," Smith added. "But I felt good to be out there. I was nervous since it was my first game in a year. But it was good to go up and down. I'm glad that I got that off my chest. But I was nervous seeing all those soldiers around the court."

Mostly, though, it was about the experience off the floor.

"This was a privilege," Thompson said. "We had a chance to interact with the young men here at Camp Humphreys. They are our players' age. They are so close to the DMZ. What they are doing, what they sacrifice, makes this even more of an unbelievable experience."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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