Aug. 10, 2011
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University senior men's basketball player Jason Clark (Arlington, Va./Bishop O'Connell) said that he knew his summer was really over when the Hoyas started practicing last week. Even Head Coach John Thompson III agreed with him.
Under NCAA rules, teams that travel overseas are allowed 10 days to practice before their trip. Thompson and his team are departing for a trip to China on Saturday. The Hoyas will arrive in Beijing on Sunday and play a pair of games against teams from the Chinese Basketball Association before departing for Shanghai, where they will play two more games and participate in Nike's "Festival of Sports."
"It feels weird to see all of you guys," Thompson said to the assembled media, "in August. But it's a different feel, very much like the preseason. This trip is a good trip for us in many facets. As the head coach, it's really exciting to go to China. I've never gone to Asia and it's a good experience to go over and experience a different culture."
But it was at that first day of practice that Clark knew his summer was over. "We're all looking forward to seeing something new," Clark said. "Everyone is saying I want to go to China because we want to be able to experience something new. Especially when we started, on our first day of practice, I knew summer was over and basketball is here."
More than anything, however, Clark said that he and his teammates are looking forward to the opportunity to travel and visit a country none of them have ever been to. "It's exciting," Clark said. "It still hasn't really hit me yet and that's how I tend to take things, so it probably won't until I'm getting ready to get on the plane. I'm really excited to represent the United States and to represent Georgetown. I've never been out of the country so this will be a great experience."
Sims, one of only two seniors on this year's Hoya team, has known of the trip for some time now, like most of his teammates, but feels the sense of urgency as it gets closer. "We heard about it around this time last year and I was like, `Wow, China," Sims said, "and now it's Saturday coming. When I heard about it, I honestly didn't give it too much thought, but as it gets closer and closer, it's getting more and more surreal. The furthest I've been out of the country is Canada for a day. It's going to be a fun trip and I'm excited to see another culture."
While the Hoyas will play four games, and possibly an additional scrimmage during their stay, they will also get to experience the cultures of Beijing and Shanghai, including a pair of clinics with youths in the country.
"In all honesty, most of it may be cultural," John Thompson III said. "We're going to play four games, but how often do we get the chance to take a trip like this and to experience something like this? From a basketball perspective, a lot of the value in the trip will take place before we leave with the 10 days of practice that we can have."
Of course, the trip is also a chance for a young team to get a chance to play and get to know each other on the court as well. "There's obviously an educational component and a basketball part of it," sophomore forward Nate Lubick (Southboro, Mass./St. Marks) said. "We're there for business. It's the start of the season and we have to look at it that way and I think everyone will. I think it's a huge advantage for us to be there. We're really young with five sophomores and five freshmen and to go over there and play games against teams that are better than we think will be good for us."
I'm most excited to play," junior forward Hollis Thompson (Los Angeles, Calif./LaSalle) said. "I'm very excited to go to China and see things, but I want to go there and play basketball."
During the last two weeks, the team has been going through some orientations with the Inter-Cultural Center at Georgetown and they have learned a few things, including getting familiar with using chopsticks, eating different foods and some language basics.
"It's poor," Clark joked of his ability with chopsticks. "I can't use chopsticks to save my life." " "Honestly, I haven't practiced (with them)," Hollis Thompson said. "I told Coach that I bet I can find a fork somewhere. That's one thing I'm not looking forward to."
Getting used to using chopsticks isn't the only adjustment the Hoyas will have while dining in China. "We have had some introduction to the food we'll be eating," Sims added. "I had duck for the first time, but I'm going to have to eat it again."
"Everyone likes Chinese food," Clark said. "My favorite is sesame chicken, but I've been told that doesn't really exist over there."
Head Coach John Thompson even admitted that he still has work to do in order to be ready for the trip.
"I still have a couple of days," the head coach admitted. "At this point, it's (his Chinese) non-existent. My daughter downloaded onto my ipad an English to Chinese translator so I have that with me. And we have a cheat sheet from some orientation sessions with key phrases on it so I'll make sure I have that with me."
One thing Thompson said that he is not sure anyone is ready for is how intense fans are for the sport of basketball in China.
"There are as many people playing basketball in China as there are in the United States and that's an amazing stat," Thompson said. "I don't think (the players) are ready it (how intense the Chinese fans are). I'm not sure I am, but that's one of the beauties of this trip is that basketball is huge and growing there. From an institutional standpoint, we're getting a chance to represent Georgetown and to help grow it there. It's something that President (John) DeGioia has continued to work on and make Georgetown an international institution and this trip is just part of that."