President Obama attends Maryland basketball game, Terps hardly notice

November 17, 2013

(Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

UPDATE: The Obama operation apparently took over the Maryland women’s basketball locker room, so some players left him a note. He was nice enough to respond and wish them well.

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The building lit up with cellphone flashes as President Obama entered Comcast Center on Sunday night, trailed by his wife and two daughters. The first family sat directly behind the Oregon State bench, barely cheering throughout the Beavers’ 90-83 win over Maryland but providing support for Beavers Coach Craig Robinson, First Lady Michelle Obama’s brother.

Robinson and his players are used to the attention that draped College Park, from the long security lines to the metal detectors to the U.S. Army brass quintet that blared the national anthem to the motorcade that left the White House at 5:14 p.m. and arrived in the loading dock at 5:42 p.m.. Each season, Oregon State flies to the Washington D.C. area for a non-conference game, and Obama always finds time to attend.

“We always have the support of the President,” Robinson said. “He’s always following us. Before this game when we were on our tour [at the White House] he was admonishing the guys to make sure they set a plan a little bit better because his brother-in-law’s coaching the team. It was a fun thing for them to hear. It means a lot to these guys because they know him. They really do know him and he knows them. They played inspired for him, for themselves, for Oregon State. So it means a lot having him here.”

Maybe it was the sting they felt after falling to 1-2 this season, but the Maryland players all but shrugged off the presidential presence. They didn’t have an opportunity to meet him and, among the sea of 14,776 who packed Comcast Center just to be in the same building as Obama, the commander in chief was just another face who watched a frustrating loss unfold at home.

“To be quite honest with you I didn’t even see him,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “I didn’t even look for him. I think it is cool that he was there. I think it was great for our university. I think it brought out a greater crowd. I think they had 12,000 tickets when they announced it. I think the student section came out. That’s really the most disappointing thing for me is we had our students here tonight. They were ready to cheer. It’s hard to yell and cheer when you can’t get stops.

“I think it’s great for our university. Hopefully he was able to relax a little bit … all the stuff he’s going through, it was probably good for him. He had a couple hours to relax and enjoy basketball.”

Said forward Evan Smotrycz: “To be honest, I didn’t see the president, didn’t notice he was here. It’s good to have a crowd like that, but it’s not good to play like the way we did in front of the crowd.

And guard Dez Wells: “I play basketball. I don’t really pay too much attention to who’s in the crowd. But it was amazing. I’ll be able to tell my grandson and granddaughters that I had an opportunity to play in front of the president. I was locked into the game. That was my focus. But it was a great experience playing in front of him and I hope he has the time to come back to see us play again.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · November 17, 2013

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