Wyking Jones drawing on past experience to prep Cal Men’s Basketball for Pac-12 China Game
HANGZHOU, China – As coach Wyking Jones takes his team through Pac-12 China Game week, he has been able to lean on his own cultural and competitive experience in the country to prepare and relate to his California men’s basketball team.
In 1996, Jones – then recently graduated from a four-year, all-conference playing career at Loyola Marymount University – was part of an 18-member group of Americans who played a series of professional exhibition games in cities across China.
“We had about seven stops all over China just playing against each other,” said Jones. “It was a spectacular event, we had a lot of fun.”
While Jones would go on to a six-year professional career with stops in Italy, France, Lebanon and South Korea, he fondly recalls the Chinese passion for the sport.
“What was fascinating to me was that we would go to venues and we’d have 5,000-6,000 people who just wanted to see us play against each other,” said Jones. “We weren’t name guys because we weren’t NBA guys – we were professional athletes overseas, but we weren’t guys that had big reps – and they just wanted to see American basketball. The love for American basketball is very apparent.”
Beyond basketball, however, Jones has been able to draw comparisons between that 1996 visit and this week’s: “I knew that China was big cities, lots of people – always what I remembered from the trip in ’96. It has really grown since I was here, it looks completely different than what I remember. I remember we went to Beijing, which was a big city, but Shanghai is spectacular. I don’t know that we can compare it to any city in the States – the magnitude of the buildings, the lights, it’s just really nice. I’m excited about being here, I know my players are excited, the staff’s excited. It’s a very culturally enriching visit for us.”
In line with his recollections of that 1996 visit, Jones’ Golden Bears team is participating in a one-credit class this week, with the focus on engaging and documenting their experiences along the way in an effort to reflect on what it means to be a young person participating in cultural exchange through sport.
“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to play basketball in another country,” said sophomore Grant Anticevich, a native of Sydney, Australia who, similar to Jones, has previously toured China as part of scholastic basketball competition. “To experience the game in another country – see how they play, see how the game’s played, how the game’s taught and valued across the world – it’s a great venue to play our first game of the season. I think it will be a very competitive game and I look forward to it.”
Two of Cal’s newest players – junior Paris Austin and freshman Matt Bradley – are reveling both their first action as Golden Bears and first trip to China.
“First impression – it’s a lot different from home – the environment, the people, the culture, all of that,” said Bradley. “It’s very exciting, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
Added Austin: “I’ve never been to China, a lot of us on the team haven’t been to China, and I think most of us are just excited to get out here have the experience to play a college game and to see the culture here.”
More information on the Pac-12 China Game can be found at pac-12.com/chinagame.
About Pac-12 Global
Founded in 2011, Pac-12 Global is an unprecedented effort to harness the passion and spirit of collegiate athletics to showcase the Pac-12 Conference and its member institutions around the world, while giving student-athletes access to transformative life experiences and impactful cultural exchanges. The initiative uses athletics to support the ambitious international strategies that many Pac-12 universities have embarked upon to extend their reach around the world. For more information on the initiative and its history, go to www.pac-12.com/global.