By Maxx Wolfson & Brian Penso
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday March 24, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY ÷ During the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, basketball was often sidelined as CBS switched its television programming to the live coverage of the war in the Middle East.
While March Madness was the focal point of what is arguably the biggest three-week span in American sports, American soldiers were on the minds of all the athletes.
"We spend a lot of time on the basketball court, but the bigger issue is the kids over there," UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough said. "My son and I have been watching the coverage all morning."
UA senior Luke Walton has also kept his eye on the TV.
"I was flipping back and forth (between the games and the war coverage)," Walton said. "It is scary what is going on over there."
UA sophomore Salim Stoudamire agreed.
"What we're doing is nothing compared to what the troops are doing," Stoudamire said. "I appreciate what they are doing for our country."
Needless to say, Arizona athletes are not the only ones splitting attention between the games and the war.
"We're playing a game right now, and there are guys my age and younger than me over in Iraq fighting for our country's freedom," said Gonzaga junior guard Blake Stepp. "Your heart is with your team, but you have to be thinking about them over there too, and all the people who are fighting to allow us to play these games. They're over there making sure that we have these opportunities."
Teammate Ronny Turiaf said focusing on a game becomes a problem with the war overseas.
"It's really tough for us to stay focused on our goal of winning each and every game," Turiaf said. "But we're also thinking about what is going on in Iraq. We came here to play the NCAA tournament; we've worked hard all year to be here. I think we've done a good job of trying to stay focused on the basketball game, but it is really tough on us."
The situation was perhaps summed up best by Duke's Dahntay Jones.
"That (over in Iraq) is the reality of the real world. What we're doing is secondary to the rest of the world," Jones said. "We're playing a sport · those guys over there are risking their lives. Yes, CBS should have switched over. We have to support those guys over there."