Nov. 8, 2012
RAMSTEIN, Germany - From clouds to kids, the UConn men's basketball team packed a load of activities into another day across the ocean as it gets closer to meeting 14th-ranked Michigan State in the first Armed Forces Classic Friday night (5:30 p.m. pregame show, 6:05 p.m. tip on ESPN) in Hangar 5 at the Ramstein Air Base in Southwest Germany.
The Huskies, who arrived Wednesday morning following an overnight flight from New York, began Thursday with another trip above the clouds, this one in a C-130 transport plane, one of the largest in the Air Force fleet. Strapped into seats along the walls of the huge aircraft, the 40-minute flight gave the UConn players and coaches the feeling of paratroopers (without the jumping out of the plane part).
In groups of three, the UConn contingent went into the cockpit to meet the pilots and get a look at the complicated instrument panel and the view from the front windshield. Heavy cloud cover prevented a view of the ground, and the pilots elected not to open the rear hatch while in flight, but it was another of the experiences in Germany the UConn team will not forget.
A two-hour study hall and a meal break later, and the Huskies were off to the Ramstein Air Base Fitness Center, where they combined with the players from Michigan State for a one-hour clinic for some 100 youngsters whose parents are stationed at Ramstein.
The excited kids had been waiting months to participate in the clinic and enthusiastically dribbled, passed, rebounded and shot with the Huskies and the Spartans.
UConn then followed that with a two-hour practice of its own, getting down to the business of preparing to open its season against one of the top teams in the country on Friday night.
Neither UConn nor Michigan State has practiced on the game court, which has been set up in Hangar 5, a converted airplane hangar which will seat some 3,100 fans, mostly military personnel who have been fortunate enough to obtain tickets.
Both teams will have shootarounds on the game court on Friday following a meet-and-greet with base personnel on Appreciation Day and just before a VIP Function at the base Officers Club.
Finally, the game will take place, tipping off just after midnight locally in Germany.
The UConn travel party will leave Ramstein on Saturday morning to catch an early-afternoon flight out of Frankfurt and is expected to arrive back in Storrs late Saturday night.