After wrapping up a ten-day stretch of practices, a cultural orientation, and a briefing at the State Department tomorrow, the men’s basketball team will set out this weekend on their much-anticipated trip to China.
From August 16-27, the team will travel to Beijing and Shanghai to play four exhibition games against teams from the country’s professional league, the Chinese Basketball Association. For the players, preparing for this preseason excitement meant that they were able to start practicing earlier.
“It’ll help us with the cohesiveness of the team, getting to know each other better”, said senior Henry Sims. “We’ve all played in the Kenner League…we’ve practiced together, but nothing’s like a real game.”
He and senior guard Jason Clark, both serious leaders on the team, refer to the journey as a “business trip” first and foremost. But Clark, who has never been out of the country, eagerly anticipates experiencing a new culture.
“It’s exciting”, said the Hoya sharpshooter. “I’m really excited to represent the USA, represent Georgetown…We’re all looking forward to seeing something new.”
Aside from the exhibitions, players are also looking forward to playing games in the Dongdan pick-up courts, Beijing’s version of Rucker Park, as well as volunteering at a clinic for young Chinese players in Shanghai.
For head coach John Thompson III, most of the athletic benefits will come from these initial ten days in McDonough Arena. But he looks forward to seeing the team bond during the trip.
“Most of it [the trip] may be cultural”, stated Thompson. “A lot of it is not necessarily on the court, but just this group coming together and getting its own personality and identity. I think that’s as important as actual games while we’re over there.”
With several injuries on the team, Thompson will have to rely heavily on Sims, freshman Mikael Hopkins, and sophomore forward Nate Lubick to handle the paint while the team is overseas.
Lubick suffered a fully-separated shoulder earlier in the summer, but has been cleared to play without restriction. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Moses Ayegba‘s torn ACL will likely put him out for most of the season. Finally, freshman big man Tyler Adams remains in a boot with the use of crutches as he recovers from a sprained ankle.
Lubick commented that the “front court is a little slim right now,” but Sims took the main consequence in a different light: “Rebounding – just means more rebounds for me.”
In advance of the trip, the team also received some cultural training: they attended a small orientation and sampled some traditional Chinese foods (Sims is still on the fence about duck). In addition, they all have cheat sheets with common Chinese phrases and have picked up some simple words for their use.
At the end of the day, the biggest hurdle may simply be just getting there, as that involves cramming players like the 6’ 10” Sims into a tiny airline seat.
“I’m OK with flying, but I don’t know about 13 hours,” Sims said. “The first four or five hours should be fine.”