San Antonio Spurs marvel at size of Air Force's athletic complex as training camp opens

October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 7:53 am
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photo - San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) dribbles the ball during overtime in Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball game against the Miami Heat, Wednesday, June 19, 2013 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) dribbles the ball during overtime in Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball game against the Miami Heat, Wednesday, June 19, 2013 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) 

The San Antonio Spurs marveled at the Air Force Academy, even as those at academy were marveling at their guests.

"It's big," guard Tony Parker said. "Big arena, big trainer's room, weight room, everything is big. I wish we had that in France for the best team in France."

The Spurs opened training camp Tuesday at Air Force and will spend four days here. In that time they will utilize the Falcons' facilities, meet with cadets and be treated to many stories of life here from coach Gregg Popovich, an academy graduate.

But on that first day they couldn't get past the size, particularly of the sprawling Cadet Field House.

"It's massive," Manu Ginobili said. "I didn't expect it to be that big. Indoor track-and-field place, hockey, two basketball courts that are better than any arena in Argentina."

A limited audience that included Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich and his staff, former Falcons coach Jeff Bzdelik - now at Wake Forest - and a handful of others watched Tuesday's morning session. The Air Force men's basketball team was allowed to watch the evening practice.

All practices will be closed to the public.

Dan Nwaelele, a 2007 Air Force graduate, is participating in camp after playing last year in the NBA's Developmental League.

Pilipovich scribbled in a notepad as he watched the practice.

"It's really neat to watch the organization and structure and all of the teaching, they are really excellent in their teaching," he said.

The Spurs held training camp in Parker's native France six years ago, and Ginobili said the change in scenery is welcome for a veteran team.

"You wouldn't want to do it every year," he said. "But you go to a different place, get to know the new guys, have team meals; I think it's important."

The advantage of training at altitude also won't hurt, and the players were very much aware of it on what they described a productive, low-key first day.

"You feel it," Ginobili said. "Once you get used to it for 10, 15 minute, then you forget it. It's the same as playing Denver, very similar. First few minutes are very tough."

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