- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2011

SAN DIEGO (AP) - President Barack Obama, the nation’s basketball-fan-in-chief, will have the seat of his choice at the Carrier Classic hoops game on Veterans Day on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea.

The White House announced Thursday that Obama has accepted an invitation to attend the Nov. 11 matchup between North Carolina and Michigan State, the first college basketball game on an active flat top.

The Carl Vinson and its sailors have attracted considerable attention since early May, when the carrier conducted bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama.

It’ll be an impossible ticket, except for the lucky 7,000 or so who will be granted permission to come aboard the 1,092-foot, nuclear-powered carrier. Most of the tickets will go to active military personnel. Tickets won’t be sold to the public.

Obama can sit “wherever he wants,” said Mike Whalen of the Morale Entertainment Foundation, which is organizing the game.

The president, a huge hoops fan, will be in his element, even if it is an unusual venue for big-time basketball.

Known for playing pickup games, Obama needed 12 stitches in his lip after he was inadvertently elbowed during such a scrimmage last November. His brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is the coach at Oregon State. Obama has filled out an NCAA tournament bracket the last three years for ESPN, which will televise the Carrier Classic.

Plus, he has a history with the Tar Heels.

Obama played a pickup game with UNC’s players during a 2008 campaign stop. The following spring, he correctly picked the Tar Heels to win the 2009 NCAA title _ which they did by routing Michigan State _ and then hosted them at the White House.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was excited to hear Obama will be at the Carrier Classic.

“My guess is he wouldn’t be there unless things in the world were in good shape,” Williams said with a grin at preseason media day. “So I hope he can stick to that commitment and be there.

“This is one of the biggest thrills in my coaching career, to be involved in that kind of game,” Williams said. “It really is as neat of a deal as you can possibly imagine.”

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he was pleased to learn the president will be there.

“I think it’s awesome,” Izzo said in a telephone interview. “The fact that he’s a basketball fan makes it even more neat.”

Izzo said Michigan State gave Obama a basketball jersey when he made a campaign visit to East Lansing.

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