Photo: Greg Sprink
A look back at my stories on Navy basketball’s Greg Sprink, the Naval Academy’s first All-American honoree since David Robinson in 1987. Sprink was honorable mention All-American pick by the Associated Press in 2008.
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Sprink on the idea of a Navy game aboard an aircraft carrier – years before the Michigan State-North Carolina game was played aboard the USS Vinson in 2011. Bruce Binkowski of the San Diego Bowl Game Association and I explored the idea in 2006.
Picture this strategy adjustment confronting San Diego State’s men’s basketball team while playing Navy in a game aboard an aircraft carrier docked in San Diego Harbor.
SDSU’s Richie Williams pulls up for a jumper, but a shift in the wind turns what would have been a swish of the nets into a shot that bounces long off the rim.
At the other end, Navy’s Greg Sprink, the team captain and an alumnus of El Camino High in Oceanside, takes the ball and pushes it up court. He senses the wind n he has experience from playing on the USS Wasp during summer cruises n compensates and buries the three-pointer.
Talk about your halftime adjustments.
“A game like that would be outstanding,” said Sprink, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder senior that leads Navy with 17.5 points per game. “It’s right up our alley. For the players, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime. I’m sure a lot of people would want to see a game like tha
San Diego, a Navy town, already couldn’t seem to be more hospitable than it is with this week’s schedule of Naval Academy sports in town.
First, Navy’s men’s and women’s basketball teams play San Diego State at Cox Arena, with the men’s game Monday night and the women playing Tuesday night.
Then, the Navy football team faces Utah Thursday night in the third annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
But imagine a basketball game aboard an aircraft carrier, with proceeds benefiting Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. That would be a way to add to a special week.
San Diego Bowl Game Association Executive President Bruce Binkowski, who first approached SDSU about adding Navy basketball games to this week’s schedule along with Navy’s anticipated appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl, explored the possibility of playing a game on the Midway, the historic aircraft carrier now serving duty as a museum in San Diego Harbor.
But there were too many obstacles to make such an event happen, at least in the short term.
Playing on the retired Midway overcomes the obstacle of the Department of Navy declining to reserve an active aircraft carrier for a sporting event in a time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the Midway, a World War II-era carrier, it isn’t as large as modern carriers. The fire marshal would limit attendance on the Midway and that would mean TV money would be needed to overcome costs.
But still, it’s a great idea, with the only known precedence a 1967 Harlem Globetrotters game aboard the USS Enterprise.
“We set up a court last summer when I was on a cruise with the USS Wasp,” Sprink said. “It was definitely a great experience. I think a game like that would be a great morale boost for a lot of young sailors and marines who serve on aircraft carriers. It would give them recognition and credit for what they do for our country. “
--- Tom Shanahan has featured Army, Navy and Air Force athletes for nearly 30 years in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, Rivals.com and the Raleigh News and Observer. He attended his first Army-Navy Game after John Feinstein wrote in his book on the rivalry, “A Civil War,” everyone should attend the Army-Navy Game at least once. Air Force players will remind their Army and Navy games are big, too.