HONOLULU — It’s not all about basketball this week.
The season-opening trip to Hawaii is affording the Hoosiers with a unique look into American history less than a month before the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Indiana’s men’s basketball team spent Wednesday evening touring the USS Arizona Memorial before teaming with its season-opening opponent, No. 3 Kansas, for a children’s basketball clinic.
As they walked out of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Wednesday night, Indiana upperclassmen Collin Hartman and James Blackmon Jr. spoke of their general knowledge of World War II history and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
But the tour of the USS Arizona, they said, served as a moving experience.
“My dad is kind of a buff about these kind of things, this old military stuff,” Hartman said. “… The experience just now that we had was kind of eye-opening with what happened here and how devastating it was to the country and how it triggered us into the second World War. It’s cool to see it in person instead of seeing it on TV or in a movie.”
“It’s good to get a chance to see it first-hand,” Blackmon Jr. said. “We’re gaining a lot of knowledge from it. It’s a huge experience for us to be able to play here, as well.”
Indiana is becoming quite familiar with the long trip to Hawaii.
The Hoosiers played three games in successive days last November in the Maui Invitational. While that trip was more basketball-focused, this one allowed the teams to take part in more cultural and historical activities.
Earlier Wednesday, Indiana’s team also enjoyed a galley lunch with service members.
“It’s cool to be immersed and see this,” Hartman said. “We had lunch with some of the military guys. Just seeing their day-to-day life and question them and see what they’re doing every day and compare it to our lives — it’s cool to see that other side of the world in that aspect.”
The Armed Forces Classic, now in its fifth year, is an ESPN production meant to bring college basketball to military personnel around the world. Previous editions of the series have been played in Germany, Korea and Puerto Rico.
Indiana’s game, which tips off at 9 p.m. Friday, is the second end of a doubleheader that also features Michigan State and Arizona.
Originally scheduled to be played at the 4,000-seat Bloch Arena on the Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Friday’s doubleheader was moved to the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii. The Stan Sheriff Center can accommodate a capacity crowd of 10,300, the majority of whom will be service members and their families.
“It’ll be a real privilege for us to be a part of that,” IU coach Tom Crean said earlier this week on his radio show. “Obviously, there are three other great programs there. … I think it’s a big deal. Once they get in there and play in front of the servicemen and do the clinic for the kids and start to see these people around and start to interact, they’ll see that we’re in really good hands and we’re really, really fortunate to be where we’re at.”
Wednesday and Thursday afford the Hoosiers to gain a first-hand appreciation for the Pearl Harbor memorial site.
By the end of the week, the focus will shift back to basketball.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” Blackmon said. “At the same time, we just want to have a business-type approach and get into film and things like that when we can, and get ready for the game, as well.”