JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- College basketball and the U.S. military have found one creative way to merge. Last year, the first basketball game was played on a Navy carrier. This year, it's the USS Bataan, docked at Naval Station Mayport, that gets the honor of hosting Florida and Georgetown during the Navy-Marine Corps Classic.
"This is only the second time this has been done," said USS Bataan's PAO, Mass Communication Specialist Chief Will Borrall.
Transforming the USS Bataan into a college basketball arena isn't easy. The flight deck is converted into a hardwood court. Stands have to be hoisted on board and assembled. There has to be enough seats for 3,500 fans.
"Every single sailor on board is excited about this," Borrall said.
But it hasn't been smooth sailing for the USS Bataan. The Navy ship wasn't able to pull into Naval Station Mayport until Friday, days behind schedule because of Superstorm Sandy.
"We did get here a little late. Hurricane Sandy caught us a little offguard. We did end up having to shift our timeline a little to the right."
Left with only one full week to complete the makeover, crews have been working on overdrive. Tip off is at 9 p.m. Friday, whether everything is ready or not. Borrall says it has been remarkable to watch it all come together, slowly but surely, and he's confident they'll get the job done in time.
"From the moment they got on board, they came on board, they hit it hard. They came on fast and they've done it the right way. It's very good to see."