When Fox Sports reached out to Jay Wright and Villanova to see if they would be interested in playing a game at Pearl Harbor on the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack that began the involvement of the United States in World War II, Wright was all in.
"We really wanted to do it to honor the Naval men and women who are working out there and serving our country, and out of respect for them," said Wright, the Wildcats coach. "We also wanted to do it as a learning experience for our guys."
In addition to an educational experience, the eighth-ranked Wildcats will get a tough test on the basketball court Monday night when they take on No. 6 Oklahoma in Bloch Arena on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam near Honolulu. Only military personnel, in addition to each team's travel party, will view the game.
The Wildcats flew Thursday to Los Angeles and continued Saturday to Honolulu, where they were to see the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri Memorial in addition to practice.
Wright said the trip was important to him personally because it gives him and the team a chance to say thanks to U.S. military personnel.
"I always tell my players that I respect them for putting their name and their reputation on the line when they play in front of 15,000 to 18,000 people," he said. "But the only people I respect more than them are the young men and women that serve our country.
"What's most important to me, that we can actually do something for the men and women who are serving in Pearl Harbor right now, that we can bring the game to them and honor them and thank them for their service. That's really the most important part to me."
Wright said his players watched a 45-minute video about the Pearl Harbor attack, in which more than 2,400 Americans were killed, and later discussed it at a team meeting.
"I think my generation still has kind of a feeling for it because of my parents," said Wright, who is 53. "My grandfather was in the Navy, my dad was in the Army, my uncles were in the Marines. So it was something that they always talked about. They lived it and would talk about it every Pearl Harbor Day.
"We didn't feel like [the players'] generation really knew the significance of it and so, the video we watched was really good. After we finish talking about it, they have a good feel.
Both Villanova co-captains, senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono and senior center Daniel Ochefu, said they knew some facts about Pearl Harbor before going on the trip, and were thrilled to be able to play in such a historic setting.
"We're grateful to everyone in the military who sacrifice their lives and are ready to go into battle to protect our country and keep us free," Arcidiacono said. "So it's definitely going to be a big-time experience for all of us. I'll be sure to thank them."
"It's a great experience," Ochefu said. "It's going to be new for my teammates and my coaches, everybody in our program. We know it's a neat thing that they're doing and it's an honor to be a part of this."