Camp has unfortunately come to an end here in Hangzhou. Australia was the last team to leave this afternoon, so I’m officially the only foreigner (that I know of) on campus. I decided to stay an extra day, and I’ve certainly made the most of it so far. I just got back from touring the famous West Lake and while the weather wasn’t perfect, the view was still breathtaking, as you can see from the pictures below. The smog around Hangzhou has actually been quite heavy this week, and a camper even mentioned that he hadn’t seen the sun at all since he’d been here!
I was glad to have the time to visit a little more, although my downtown promenade only reinforced my fear of getting hit by a car or a scooter. There are two words to describe the circulation I’ve seen thus far in China: organized chaos. Taxi drivers are especially aggressive, but so are the bikes and the pedestrians, so it makes for quite a scene. My taxi driver today called me before he picked me up, probably to confirm my location. However, he immediately started speaking Chinese, so I told him in mandarin that I don’t speak the language. Either he didn’t hear me or I wasn’t pronouncing the words right, because he continued on chatting away in his native tongue. All I could do was repeat over and over again that I didn’t understand, before I finally gave up and hung up. Once we found each other, he again tried to strike up conversation in mandarin, but eventually understood that our blossoming friendship simply wasn’t feasible.
Since everyone else from camp has left Hangzhou, I’ve had the time to think about the experience I had at the NBA’s Asia Pacific Team Camp. The five days flew by, but I know that I’ll remember them forever. I was surrounded by great people, basketball, and authentic Chinese food. What more could I ask for? The only lowlight of the week was that I got absolutely annihilated in a game of “H.O.R.S.E.” but I’m trying not to let it hurt my confidence too much since it was against a NBA player. Everyone was extremely welcoming, but maybe most importantly, they were all very knowledgeable. Every single person I met had a different perspective to give me involving basketball in Asia, from the coach of the South Korea team, to the NBA China International Basketball Operations personnel, to the girls I coached. I really couldn’t have found a better group of people to help support me with my project.
I will continue to examine the basketball in China tomorrow, when I make the five-minute walk to the campus gyms and watch one of the academy teams practice. Clearly, there are a number of differences in the Chinese basketball culture compared to that of North America, so I’m excited to see it at play tomorrow. The Zhejiang College of Sports, where the NBA camp was held and where I am still staying, has completely separated itself from academics. Kids who are seen as promising athletes are sent here to develop their skill set, but have to step away from continuing their education. Because of this, the NBA is looking to move their Academy to a different location, where the academic facilities are comparable to the athletic programs in place. I was talking to a member of the NBA China staff who is currently working on a report to prove the necessity of an academic component for an athlete. He’s also conducting research on the age that athletes should start their training in order to peak at the right time in their field of competition. I’m looking forward to reading his report, as I’m certain that it will help me write mine.
These next few days will be mostly filled with tourism and meetings, so I’ll do my best to keep it interesting for you all. I’ll be heading back to Shanghai tomorrow, Friday, since it’s only an hour away from Hangzhou. I’ll stay there for 4 days before taking the 4-hour bullet train to Beijing. I’m already dreading having to find my way around the train stations tomorrow, so wish me luck!