This afternoon, John Calipari and the U19 National Team arrived in Cairo, Egypt for the FIBA World Cup; what should they expect over the next two weeks? I’ve never been to Egypt, but I do have a computer with internet access, so I spent my day researching the ancient land and the event. Here’s what the team can look forward to, both on and off the basketball court.
1. It’s gonna be really, really hot
Over the next two weeks, temperatures in Cairo are expected to get as high as 107 degrees. Every day will be pretty much the same: sunny and hot with absolutely no chance of precipitation. It’s like they’re in the desert or something.
But, you know, it’s a dry heat.
2. The Egyptian president has taken over security of the event
A major concern leading up to the FIBA World Cup has been security. Over the past several months, terrorist attacks have wreaked havoc across Egypt; however, it’s important to note that Cairo has remained safe, with most of the attacks happening outside the city in rural areas. FIBA is so concerned about safety that Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has personally stepped in to oversee security for the event. In a recent teleconference, Calipari said he has received several assurances from USA Basketball, specifically General Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that proper precautions will be in place.
“Well, I think whether you’re in the NBA or the Olympics, traveling around the world has changed a whole lot. USA Basketball had recognized that having General (Martin E.) Dempsey become the new chairman of USA Basketball at this time for this trip was kind of helpful. He’s able to call the ambassador of Egypt, and he and I have had a bunch of calls because, again, I feel that I’m going to be responsible for 12 kids and their parents and I want to be sure where are we on all this. All I can tell you is, at this point, there are two levels within the USA Basketball security that we’ll have. The president of Egypt is involved in this, and the arena and the hotel. The hotel is where the Pope stayed. Let me just say this, I was very curious of how we’re going to do this, and at this point I’m very comfortable that this team will be in a good position when we travel and go over there to play.”
According to the Washington Post, the US team will receive the same level of security that NBA All-Stars have on Olympic squads, with even more staff on the ground and greater intelligence shared. So, it’s very, very doubtful that the team will be able to roam the streets of Cairo on their own, which is a good thing because…
3. Crossing the street looks terrifying
Crossing the street in any major city can be a daunting task, but in Cairo, it can be a death wish. No joke, when I looked up Cairo travel tips, there was a whole section on how to cross the street. According to the Daily Telegraph, you should only cross the street in Cairo if you are “supremely confident” because to Egyptians, “more than a breath of air between cars is a wasted space.”
So, Calipari, use that Vince McMahon swagger when venturing out onto the streets of Cairo to get your Dunkin’ Donuts (there are actually two locations in the city). You’ll need it.
4. The local food looks amazing
I’m a big fan of Mediterranean food, and while I’m sure the team will eat most of their meals in the hotel, here’s hoping they’re able to sample at least some of the local cuisine because it looks amazing. Typical Egyptian dishes you can find in Cairo:
- Koshary — A dish made of rice, macaroni, and lentils and topped with chickpeas, onion, and a special tomato-vinegar sauce.
- Ful Mudamas — A breakfast dish made of fava beans cooked in spices (typically salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil) and served with loaves of pita or French bread
- Mahshi — Grape leaves stuffed with spiced rice and cooked in a tomato based sauce
- Fiteer Baladi — Egyptian pizza made of layers upon layers of filo dough. Can be ordered sweet (with honey, syrup, and/or powdered sugar) or savory (with meat, vegetables, and/or cheese)
- Falafel — Deep-fried mixture of herbs and beans
- Kabab — Skewers of seasoned beef cooked over coals; Kofta: Minced beef or lamb with spices rolled onto skewers and cooked over coals
And now I’m hungry.
5. Tomorrow, they’ll go see the pyramids
USA’s first game isn’t until Saturday vs. Iran, so until then, they’ll let their bodies acclimate to the time change, rest, practice, and yes, sightsee. Before scrimmaging Lithuania tomorrow night, the team will go check out the pyramids in Giza, which is about a half hour from their hotel, depending on traffic. Once there, they’ll tour the pyramids and the Sphinx, and, hopefully, for the sake of photo opps, take a camel ride. How much does a camel ride in Giza cost? For a short ride with the right haggler, around $25 each; well worth it for a once in a lifetime experience. Romeo Langford can’t wait.
“The main thing I want to see over in Egypt during my downtime is the pyramids,” Langford wrote in his recent USA Today High School Sports blog. “I remember when I was in the sixth grade I did a project about the Pyramids of Giza; it’ll be crazy to be able to just see them now.”
I started my own Egypt club in elementary school (super nerd!), so I would say the same.
6. The US will be going for a repeat
The US took home the gold in the 2015 FIBA World Cup in Heraklion, Greece. With a team featuring Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brunson, Josh Jackson, Caleb Swanigan, and Thomas Welsh, the US beat out Croatia for the title, so this year they’ll be going for a repeat. To do that, they’ll have to fend off 15 teams:
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
7. Yes, that means they could face Tai Wynyard
Wynyard is playing for New Zealand, but because the two teams are in separate groups, they won’t face off until Friday, July 7 at the earliest.
8. Who is in USA’s group?
I’m glad you asked. The US is in Group D, which also features Angola, Iran, and Italy. Here’s their schedule for group play:
- Saturday, July 1: USA vs. Iran, 11:30 AM ET
- Sunday, July 2: USA vs. Angola, 12:15 PM ET
- Tuesday, July 4: USA vs. Italy, 10:30 AM ET
From there, the round of 16 begins. All games will be streamed on YouTube, and we’ll make it even easier for you to watch by embedding the games on this very website (if possible).
9. This is where they’ll play those games
That’s Hall 1 of the Cairo Stadium Indoor Halls Complex, which seats 16,000 people. Games will also be played in Hall 2, which is considerably smaller with a capacity of 2,100:
A far cry from Rupp Arena, but it’ll get the job done. In fact, they seem to be making themselves right at home:
– USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 27, 2017
That’s Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie, by the way. Speaking of Okogie, if you’re still wondering why Bol Bol didn’t make the cut, according to Dick Weiss, the US could only take one naturalized citizen with them to the FIBA World Cup and the committee chose Okogie, a rising sophomore born in Lagos, Nigeria, over the 17-year-old Bol Bol, born in Sudan. So, again, not a big deal that Bol Bol didn’t make the cut.
10. KSR actually has a correspondent in Cairo
How seriously is KSR taking the FIBA World Cup? We actually have a correspondent in Cairo. Former UK broadcasting grad Sofie Tapia lives in Cairo and will be covering the event for us. How’s that for some big J journalism?