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HAMMOCK: Moore, Aminu get to soak up Olympics, hoops

LOCALS IN LONDON

Click HERE to check out the Daily Post's complete coverage of the 2012 Olympics, including Gwinnett athletes competing in the Summer Games.

Not long ago, Maya Moore and Al-Farouq Aminu were playing basketball on courts in Gwinnett County.

Moore graduated from Collins Hill in 2006; Aminu from Norcross a year later. They were often in the same gym, with the frequent Collins Hill-Norcross matchups, along with region and state tournaments. In 2006, they won Class AAAAA state championships in back-to-back games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

I'm sure we knew back then we were watching two pretty good basketball players. It turns out we were watching a pair of future Olympians, too.

Both Moore and Aminu will compete in London beginning this weekend, with Moore's U.S. women's team opening Saturday vs. Croatia and Aminu's Nigerian team (his parents' native country) facing Tunisia on Sunday.

It's the Olympic debut for the two Gwinnett products, who will share many of the same type of off-the-court experiences at the Games. On the court, their experiences will be significantly different.

Moore plays for a loaded American team that is expected to cruise to another Olympic gold medal, likely the first of many for the WNBA and former Connecticut star. Anything short of that goal is a disappointment, and it's likely most of her games will be lopsided blowouts in favor of the U.S.

Aminu's task will be tougher.

Few are predicting much from the Nigerian team in its Olympic debut. Of the 12-team field, the Nigerians are near the bottom in terms of expectations and experience. Aminu is one of the team's more-seasoned players with his NBA experience.

Nigeria will get some publicity, though, with its Aug. 2 preliminary round game vs. what is considered one of the best U.S. Olympic basketball teams in history. Unlike his teammates, at least Aminu knows what it's like to share the floor with guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

The result of that game may not be too good for Aminu, but the Olympic experience will be a blast overall. Moore will have that, too, and likely a gold medal to boot.

And for Gwinnettians, we have two more good reasons to watch Olympic basketball.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.