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Kelvin Sampson - photo by LaizurePhoto
Sampson to Visit Kuwait for Hoops with Troops

Every summer, Kelvin Sampson puts his frequent flyer card to good use. Between recruiting trips, camp appearances and various other basketball-related excursions, Oklahoma’s coach finds himself zig-zagging across the country during the offseason. Later this month, though, Sampson will take his travels to a whole new level.

From Aug. 27-31, Sampson will be in Kuwait to help coach a military basketball squad.

The America Supports You campaign, a nationwide Department of Defense program that showcases America's support for the men and women in the Armed Forces, announced plans Wednesday for “Operation Hardwood — Hoops With The Troops,” basketball tournament in which eight NCAA coaches and sports personalities, including Sampson, will travel to Kuwait to coach military basketball teams at Camp Arifjan.

Eight 13-member military basketball teams from camps throughout Kuwait will participate in the tournament. In addition to working with the soldiers, the coaches are planning to visit a local sports clinic to meet and coach Kuwaiti children who are learning the game.

Rick Kell, Operation Hardwood executive director, in conjunction with the America Supports You team, has arranged for the following NCAA coaches and sports personalities to participate in the tournament:

* Jay Bilas, ESPN commentator and former player, Duke University
* Bobby Cremins, former head coach, Georgia Tech
* Mark Gottfried, University of Alabama
* Tom Izzo, Michigan State University
* Mike Jarvis, ESPN commentator and former coach, St. John's University
* Bobby Lutz, University of North Carolina Charlotte
* Dave Odom, University of South Carolina
* Kelvin Sampson, University of Oklahoma

“It’s such an honor and a big deal when you have the chance to go do something for the men and women of the military who are risking their lives,” said Sampson, who led the Sooners to a share of the Big 12 regular season title last year. “I’m extremely honored that I was asked to participate in this. I talked to my wife, Karen, about it and I think it's something important. Taking five days out of my life is a very small consequence compared to what our troops are doing.”

Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs said, "Operation Hardwood is a unique example of how Americans are showing their support for our military men and women in uniform. America Supports You is proud to be a part of this basketball tournament, and we look forward to the start of the games."

This double elimination tournament will feature the best military players in Kuwait who have honed their skills in their off-duty time for the chance to work with these top-level coaches. The tournament will take place over three days and will include 3-point and slam dunk contests prior to the start of the championship game. Nike Inc. assisted with recruiting the coaches and has donated shoes and uniforms for the teams.

“We're taking the idea of March Madness and letting our troops get a little taste of it," said Sampson. "All the coaches going over will be assigned to a team and we'll have a tournament. I talked to a lot of coaches who are going and we're all excited. It brings out the patriotism in you."