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Olympic Preparation Begins with Salute to the Troops

On Saturday morning, half of the U.S. Womens Senior National Team and coaching staff came together to hold a Hoops for Troops Girls Basketball Clinic at the D.C. Armory in front of the crowd of over 3,000 members of the military and their families.

The clinic featured four stations of instruction  a layup clinic run by Maya Moore and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma, a ballhandling station with Seimone Augustus, a perimeter moves station run by Lindsay Whalen and Candace Parker and a passing clinic run by Angel McCoughtry.

Do you know what that is? a micd up Auriemma called out to McCoughtry, the WNBAs scoring leader. Do you know what a pass is? he said with a laugh. Angel wouldnt even pass you the ketchup at lunch time. Shed say, I dont get paid to pass, I get paid to shoot.

The jokes drew laughter from the crowd and set the tone for a day of fun with the military kids. Well, except maybe for Parker, who was putting in some serious instruction on her station, showing the kids proper technique on a catch-pivot-drive move from the elbow of the key.

With kids ranging in age and skill level, the Olympic coaches offered a perfect mix of instruction and encouragement.

Were going to start with layups, because you cant shoot threes until you can make a layup, said Moore, who along with Parker and Auriemma, also wore a mic. I dont care how ugly it looks, were going to use the left hand.

After the kids shuffled through the four stations, the day concluded with a shooting contest and a final huddle up and 1-2-3  USA! chant to end the festivities. The players stuck around for the mens practice session, taking time to sign autographs, pose for photos and speak with the media in attendance.

Its the least we can do, said Parker after the event. For everything the military does for us, its easy for us to come out here and do this clinic for the kids.

In addition to joining the Washington Wizards emcee, mascot and dancers in throwing autographed shirts and shoes into the crowd during timeouts of the mens scrimmage, the women also participated in a special event to close the day.

A line of soldiers in full fatigues lined up on one side of half court with the mens and womens players on the other. The soldiers presented the players with a flag patch off of their uniform along with a coin to take with them to London.

The festival ended with mens coach Mike Krzyzewski once again thanking the troops for their service and a promise that the mens and womens teams would do their best to honor them in London and bring back the gold.

It was pretty special, said Swin Cash, who arrived in the final minutes of the clinic after playing for the Sky last night and having a delayed flight. Thats rare that you get that. That someone takes something off that means so much to them and present it to you to take with you as a sign of hope and tradition. We respect it a lot.

That was awesome. I didnt know that was going to happen so that was kind of a surprise, said Moore. It means a lot coming from the men and women that are serving. It helps up put things in perspective and gives us a little extra motivation. Im definitely going to remember this.