The USA U17 Team Spends Off Day Playing Hoops with Local Orphans
July 2, 2012 • Kaunas, Lithuania
Monday was an off day for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, which is being contested in Lithuania, and between their two scheduled practices the USA team opted to spend part of its day bringing smiles to the faces of local orphans. Organized by staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, the team met and played with about 30 kids from two orphanages in Kaunas.
First up was a tour of the bright, cheery facilities. With walls painted sunshine yellow, stuffed animals lining the shelves, flowers painted on the walls and in vases, it was apparent the kids were in an environment that fostered positive thinking.
From there the team headed to the backyard, complete with a wooden jungle-gym, gazebo, mini-trampoline and of course a basketball court. Because, if you didn’t already know, everybody plays basketball in Lithuania. It might be America’s game, however, the Lithuanians have passion for the game more than almost any other country on the planet.
Shy at first, the children were happy to just stand off to the side of the cement court and stare at the USA players. They needed a little nudge, and the U.S. team knew just what to do. One by one they walked up to each kid and introduced themselves. That put the locals at ease a little bit and they cautiously began to step onto the court.
USA head coach Don Showalter led the children in drills, with most of the U.S. team. USA assistant coach Mike Jones pulled his DeMatha High School (Md.) player, BeeJay Anya, to the other end of the court to shoot some hoops with the youngest of the children.
Tossing the ball underhanded in a way that would make Rick Barry proud, the kids got big cheers and high fives each time they sank a bucket.
Then Anya had an idea. He decided to find out if they could dunk … with his assistance. Anya lifted one of the little boys up to the basket and, grinning from ear to ear, the boy put the ball right into the net. Of course all the rest of them wanted to be able to dunk and took turns being hoisted into the air and scoring a bucket.
The kids were having so much fun that one of the littlest little boys turned to one of the social workers and asked if he could keep Anya as his toy!
In the end it was apparent that the USA team got as much enjoyment out of the visit as the Lithuanian children did.