Huskies, Spartans to Open in Germany

Michigan St. coach Tom Izzo (US PRESSWIRE)

Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf and Leon Tolksdorf all took a leap of faith when they decided to come overseas from Germany to join the Connecticut basketball program. It's likely never imagined the opportunity would include a "home" game at any point in their Husky careers.

But, in a unique way, it appears that will happen this November.

UConn and Michigan State, according to ESPN, are finalizing plans to open the college basketball season with a game Friday, Nov. 9, at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Ramstein is the home of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation. The U.S. Department of Defense, which negotiated the game contract with ESPN programming, still needs to issue its formal approval.

The game is expected to tip after 10 p.m. in Germany, allowing for an early evening start in the Eastern Time zone. The game reportedly will be played before 2,500 to 3,000 enlisted men and women at the base.

Michigan State and North Carolina opened last season by playing on the deck of an active aircraft carrier in California. UConn was supposed to be involved in that series by playing Arizona in the Carl Vinson game, but the game did not come together and UConn pulled out of consideration. Three other games, all involving Big East teams, have been arranged for aircraft carriers: Marquette-Ohio State, Syracuse-San Diego State and Florida-Georgetown.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun told ESPN's Andy Katz the site is appropriate for a game honoring the military with U.S. troops withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months.

"With so many of our [servicemen and women] coming from the war front, it's appropriate for our kids to honor them," Calhoun said. "This is a great thing for us and for the kids, especially on Veterans Day.

"We had talked about an aircraft carrier game, but it didn't work out and we took this opportunity. This will be something that our kids will remember for their lifetime. I hope we're doing our small part to help with the [servicemen and women]."

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel told ESPN his family has ties to the base and he is looking forward to visiting a military location he has heard so much about. Manuel's father was a sergeant in the Army.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said that his players are very excited about the game.

"I asked my players if they wanted to do it and they were jacked," Izzo told ESPN. "Has a college team ever played a regular-season game in Europe? I don't think so. It will be cool. We're going to a base in another country. That's pretty cool."

With the Michigan State game in the works, UConn's non-conference schedule continues to strengthen in a season the Huskies will be banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments due to low APR marks. UConn will also play Washington at home and North Carolina State in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Michigan State and UConn have staged some memorable games during the Izzo and Calhoun era. Both coaches place a great emphasis on defense and rebounding, so the games are always physical and intense. UConn beat Michigan State in 1998 and 2010 with the Huskies on the way to national championships in both seasons. The Huskies lost at Michigan State in 2000 when the Spartans won the national championship. And Izzo's team won in the 2009 Final Four in Detroit, handing Jim Calhoun his only Final Four loss with the Huskies.

NOTES

Phil Nolan and Omar Calhoun, UConn's two incoming freshmen, have arrived on campus in Storrs. Summer courses began Monday and will continue through early August. . . . Michael Bradley's waiver request to play in the 2012-13 season has been denied by the NCAA, according to Western Kentucky. Bradley, who transferred from UConn in the spring, had requested a hardship waiver to be closer to his grandmother in Chattanooga, Tenn., who has cancer. Bradley, who redshirted his first season at UConn and was injured and didn't log any game time last season, will now have to sit out at WKU until 2013-14. . . . There's till no word on the waiver appeal by Roscoe Smith, who transferred to UNLV. UConn is keeping a close eye on that one, since there is no good "hardship" reason for Smith to be granted a waiver. UConn's postseason ban doesn't fit the definition for the rising junior. Alex Oriakhi is eligible at Missouri because the ban coincides with his senior season. . . . ‘Tis the season for NBA deals and there are continued reports that there is a mutual interest between UConn alum Ray Allen of the Celtics and the Miami Heat. Yes, the dreaded Heat. Stay tuned. . . . Former UConn center Emeka Okafor, traded last week from New Orleans to the Washington Wizards, told the Washington Post that he played basketball last week for the first time since February. Okafor suffered a left knee injury and missed the final 39 games of the season. Okafor told the Post that the injury was a result of the lockout shortened season and he expects to be full strength by the middle of July. "It was just one of those wacky things that happened," Okafor said at his Wizards' introductory news conference.

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