Washington men's basketball to play 2015 regular season game in China
In 2015, the Pac-12 is headed east. Far East.
As part of the conference’s Globalization Initiative, the Washington men’s basketball team will fly to Shanghai, China to play the University of Texas of the Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced Saturday. The matchup, scheduled for Nov. 14, 2015, will mark the first time teams from the United States, college or professional, play a regular season game in China.
“The Pac-12 and our universities are proud to be pioneers in China,” Scott said. “This event is a great step forward for our initiative designed to use sport and cultural exchange to support the international strategies that many of our universities have embarked on to extend their reach into China.”
Launched in 2011, the Global Initiative paved the way for international competition for Pac-12 schools, specifically in East Asia. The Arizona State men’s basketball team and Cal’s women’s team went on exhibition tours in China last summer. An all-star women’s volleyball team consisting of players from around the conference visited the country last June.
This August, a Pac-12 All-Star Men’s Basketball Team will travel there, visit at least two cities and play two or three exhibition games against two Chinese pro teams and one from a university. Oregon State coach Craig Robinson is expected to coach the elite Pac-12 team, which will consist of 12-13 players.
In 2015, it’s UW’s turn.
“We’re very excited to be a part of this trip and to represent the Pac-12,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Basketball has become one of the most popular sports in China in the last decade, and we’re excited to get over there and compete. This will be a very unique educational experience for our team, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
The conference’s most high-profile trip to foreign soil perhaps came in August 2012 when the UCLA men’s basketball team went 3-0 during their Chinese tour, highlighted by a 92-63 win over the Shanghai Sharks, which is part-owned by former NBA center Yao Ming.
The Pac-12 said it plans to hold an annual non-conference game in the sovereign state, population 1.35 billion. To facilitate international student-athlete exchanges, the conference signed a long-term Memo of Understanding with the University Sports Federation of China.
“Beyond expanding our universities' presence in China, these tours will be transformative educational experiences for our student-athletes,” Scott said. “Our students and coaches return to their campuses with great memories of cultural exchange and an expanded worldview.”
When UW faces Texas, a program from a basketball power conference, NCAA tournament implications could be on the line.
“We are excited to represent the Pac-12 as it launches this innovative addition to the basketball season,” UW athletic director Scott Woodward said. “The event offers a unique bonding experience for the student-athletes early in the season and an excellent forum to showcase the university and connect with Washington alumni in China."
In 2013, first-year Texas athletic director Steve Patterson was the AD at Arizona State when coach Herb Sendek’s squad went to China. Patterson is among the proponents of an annual cross-continent trip. Sendek’s Sun Devils, meanwhile, are on the verge of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
Said Patterson: “This will be a great educational experience for our student-athletes and another opportunity to strengthen the university’s brand in the world’s most populous country.”