There was legitimate concern over the safety of the United States Under-19 team ahead of their tournament in Egypt.
For a time, they considered not sending the team to defend their championship at all. But after head coach John Calipari spoke with the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now USA Basketball’s chairman, his mind was put at ease.
“I’m trying to figure out basketball, let alone trying to figure out security and so all I can say to the parents is I’m comfortable making this trip,” the Kentucky coach said.
There have been several acts of violence against Christians in Egypt recently that have been claimed by the Islamic State. But US Basketball says it has done its due diligence securing the areas the team will be.
During competition, practice, transportation and the hotel, the US players will be safe.
According to a report on NBC Sports, they are taking no chance. The U19 team is being given the same level of security as they would the Olympic team.
For Calipari, the challenge will be to remain focused on basketball. They are traveling to a dangerous part of the world, and distractions will abound. They’ll have to rely completely on their security team and remain focused on the task at hand: winning a gold medal.
It’ll be easier said than done. But with a volume of talented players on the roster, even after many decided not to play over concerns of the tournaments location, the US enter as heavy favorites. If all goes according to plan, they’ll return home safely and will successfully defended their championship.