Carrier Classic 2011

November 11, 2011 by staff 

Carrier Classic 2011, The aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea is ready for the first college basketball game to be played on an active flat top.
As long as the rain stays away from the Carrier Classic on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Friday afternoon, coaches Tom Izzo of Michigan State and Roy Williams of No. 1 North Carolina are confident their teams will put on a great Veterans Day show for the approximately 7,000 in the crowd, including the nation’s basketball-fan-in-chief, President Barack Obama, plus a national TV audience.

Izzo and Williams said they and their players were blown away when they boarded the nuclear-powered carrier, which stretches 1,092 feet, weighs 95,000 tons and has four steam catapults that can accelerate a jet fighter from 0 to 165 mph in just more than two seconds.

“My first impression when I walked in far superseded whatever I thought it could be, and we’ve been talking about this for seven or eight years,” Izzo said Thursday aboard the carrier, which is berthed at North Island Naval Air Station. “If you could have seen our players’ eyes as we walked in, you just had such an appreciation for what we’re doing. It’s bigger than a game. It’s bigger than North Carolina against Michigan State. It’s kind of a dream come true for us. In a small, small way, I think we feel we’re giving a little bit back and maybe recognizing the people that deserve to be recognized, instead of just the athletes.”

The game, a rematch of the 2009 national championship game won by North Carolina, was conceived to celebrate Veterans Day and salute active-duty military personnel.

“Wow,” Williams said about his reaction to seeing the ship and the basketball court. The island, which serves as the command center for the ship and flight-deck operations, looms just 50 feet from one end of the court. For some high enough in the stands, there’s a view of the San Diego skyline across the bay.

Williams said his players’ eyes and mouths were wide open as they walked around the flight deck after arriving in San Diego on Wednesday.

“This is a celebration,” Williams said. “The basketball game, from the tipoff till the final horn, we’re going to be working our tails off about the game. But every single second prior to it and as soon as the game’s final horn is over with, we’re thinking about hopefully putting a smile on some people’s faces who represent our country and serve our country.

“I’m as thrilled as I could possibly be,” Williams said. “They’re not fake — I’ve got cold chills up here talking about it. It’s the neatest thing that I’ve ever been involved with.”

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