Pac-12 China Game matchup of Cal and Yale bearing special meaning for Alibaba’s Tsai
HANGZHOU, China – The California and Yale men’s basketball teams will meet for just the third time in their programs’ long histories in Saturday’s fourth annual Pac-12 China Game. This year’s matchup will carry considerably more meaning for all associated, especially Alibaba Group co-founder and executive vice chairman Joe Tsai.
For the first time during this year’s weeklong event, the Golden Bears and Bulldogs came face-to-face with each other Wednesday during a tour of global e-commerce giant Alibaba, presenting sponsor of the Pac-12 China Game. It was there that Tsai expressed his mixed rooting emotions ahead of Saturday’s contest at Baoshan Sports Center set to air on ESPNU on Friday at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET in the United States.
Tsai explained to the group gathered at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters that his loyalties were being tested for this year’s game because of the participation of his alma mater in Yale, of which he is a former lacrosse student-athlete and 1986 alumnus, and with California, a member of the Pac-12 with which Alibaba has worked together closely to bring this event to fruition each of the past four years.
Student-athletes from both teams enjoyed time on the court with Tsai, who has a strong passion for basketball and once again laced up his sneakers and joined both teams for some fun on the hardwood. Cal freshman Connor Vanover couldn’t help but put his 7-foot-3 frame to use before Tsai schooled him and the rest of the teams on the inner-workings of Alibaba, international business and Chinese foreign and domestic policy.
“Yeah, I tried to let him score a little bit, and I was like ‘I gotta show a little bit of what I can do,’” said Vanover, the tallest Golden Bears player since Cal alumnus and current Shanghai Sharks team captain Max Zhang. “It was fun, I didn’t really know much [about Alibaba] coming into this. It was nice to get to experience one of the largest companies in China, and it was a really great experience getting to meet Joe [Tsai] and play basketball against him.”
While Cal opened its China Game experience with practices and cultural tours in Shanghai and Hangzhou, Yale began the week in Suzhou – a city of 10 million an hour west of Shanghai – where it toured the Humble Administrator’s Garden and Suzhou High Tech Zone, and played its lone exhibition tune-up of the preseason. The Bulldogs trailed a united team from Peking and Soochow Universities by one, 42-41, through a physical first half, but scored 37 points in the third quarter en route to a 93-84 victory.
While pleased his team emerged with a victory, Yale head coach James Jones took away much more from Tuesday’s action. “It was an exhibition for us, I played all 17 of my guys, we played 11-12 guys in the first half. We certainly wanted to win the game, but that wasn’t the most important thing – it was an experience for everybody and I wanted all my guys on my roster to make sure they got an opportunity to experience gameplay in that environment, which was truly special. It was something that they’ll not soon forget.”
“Playing the exhibition game was one of the coolest experiences ever,” added Yale senior Alex Copeland. “I remember vividly when they played the U.S. national anthem and the Chinese national anthem, it was very reminiscent of the Olympics. I felt very proud to be here and to be representing Yale. The experience of playing against those players and seeing all the Chinese fans flood into the gym and how excited they were about our team and about basketball in general was a beautiful thing.”
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.