USAB cancels Senegal trip

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Friday, August 15, 2014

The largest recorded outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has forced USA Basketball to cancel its scheduled trip to Senegal later this month before the FIBA World Cup.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told on Friday that the recent declaration of a "public health emergency of international concern" in the region by the World Health Organization left no alternative for USAB.

The senior men's national team, led by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, had been scheduled to make its first visit to Africa on Aug. 27 for an all-day procession of clinics, tours and receptions in Dakar.

"I speak for all at USA Basketball when I say we're extremely disappointed we will not be able to visit Senegal," Colangelo said. "Our entire traveling party was very much looking forward to the experience."

After the World Health Organization "noted that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes an extraordinary event and a public health risk to other [African] states," Colangelo said, USAB officials made the determination that "any risk, however small, is one we cannot take."

"The circumstances," Colangelo said, "just don't allow us to go."

More than 1,000 deaths attributed to Ebola have been recorded since March in four West African countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. Two American aid workers infected with Ebola while working in West Africa have been transported to a containment unit in Atlanta for treatment.

The New York Times reported Friday that the State Department, in the latest sign of rising international concern, has ordered family members of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown to leave the country. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the measure was taken at the behest of the department's medical office "out of an abundance of caution."

"Although the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] does not yet suspect any [Ebola] cases in Senegal, the country's position as a neighboring country to Guinea and Dakar's role as a gateway to West Africa heightened our concern," Colangelo said.

"We remain committed to fostering basketball worldwide and in Africa and Senegal in particular and we are committed to look at further opportunities in the future to work with and support the Senegalese national team."

USAB announced in mid-July that it was planning to send its entire World Cup traveling party to Senegal for a day after the team's final exhibition game this month: Aug. 26 against Slovenia in Gran Canaria, Spain. The team was to have joined Senegal's national team in conducting a youth clinic for local children in addition to touring Senegal's historic Goree Island and concluding the visit by attending a reception hosted by the Senegalese government.

Team USA opens FIBA World Cup play against Finland in Bilbao, Spain, on Aug. 30. The 24-team tournament runs through Sept. 14, and only the champion qualifies automatically for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, meaning that the United States -- despite a succession of withdrawals of top stars and one major injury -- must duplicate its 2010 title in Turkey to ensure a summer off in 2015.

Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook have all withdrawn from participation in recent weeks, while projected starting small forward Paul George suffered the first catastrophic injury in the modern history of Team USA when he suffered a devastating compound fracture in his right leg late in an Aug. 1 intrasquad scrimmage.

After completing its current three-day stay in Chicago, Team USA will start a week of preparations Monday in New York by conducting a two-hour practice at the U.S. Military Academy's Christl Arena at West Point, with some 900 cadets expected to attend the session. ESPN2 will carry the practice starting Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

"I think that's part of our responsibility and calling to expose our players to things that stretch beyond basketball and helping mankind and supporting your country and representing your country," Colangelo said. "We've been very involved with the U.S. military over the years, as you know, and we think Monday will be a special day. It'll be impactful for our players, I know that."

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