President salutes Okafor, fellow champions

Updated: May 19, 2004, 5:18 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is commander in chief, yet on Wednesday he turned and saluted Emeka Okafor, the 6-foot-10-inch former center for the University of Connecticut men's basketball team. "Yes, sir," Bush exclaimed.

The president greeted Okafor, who is bound for the NBA, and other members of NCAA winter championship teams at the White House.

Enthusiastic fans turned the East Room into a cheering hall for Connecticut's men's and women's basketball teams, the University of Minnesota's women's hockey team and the University of Denver's men's hockey team.

"Maybe now is the moment that I should admit that I was born in Connecticut," said Bush, who was born in New Haven.

Representatives from each team presented the president with a jersey. Two were emblazoned with the No. 1. One had a "43" because Bush is the 43rd president. The last one, presented by the University of Minnesota, had "04" on the back, a reference to the president's re-election campaign.

Bush also singled out a hockey player from the University of Denver, Lukas Dora, a native of the Czech Republic.

"Where are you Lukas?" Bush asked, prompting the player to blush.

"They tell me, he talks a lot on the ice," Bush said. "He's a talkative guy. But he uses unique English to confuse the opponents. Kind of sounds like the strategy I use at the press conferences."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press