I am happy to report that I can officially start incorporating sports into my blog posts, since I’ve been at the NBA’s Asia Pacific Team Camp for two days now! I got to Hangzhou, where the camp is being held, on Friday following my first trip on a Chinese bullet train. I’d like to say that the ride went smoothly, but I’ll admit that I got slightly lost, as well as bothered a lot of people with my cumbersome suitcase. I’ll also be the first to say that the train’s speed upwards of 300 km/h wasn’t very relaxing. I therefore have a tip to anyone that will be going to the Shanghai Hongqiao train station in the near future: if your ticket tells you to arrive 1h30 ahead of the scheduled train departure time, follow those instructions. Not only is it the biggest train station I’ve ever seen, but the lines are also extremely long to pick up a ticket without a Chinese ID.
I’ve been in Hangzhou for 30 hours, but I haven’t gotten the chance to visit the famous West Lake yet since I’ve been busy doing things for the NBA’s camp. However, I am in no way complaining because I’ve been having an amazing time and I’ve already learned so much. The camp is held at the Zhejiang College of Sports, which is an institute where athletes from many different sports both train and reside. I’ve crossed paths with people of all ages, including some gymnastics girls that couldn’t be over six years old. This place is impressive, to say the least. On my first day here, I walked around some of the campus and got a chance to see the gym (or rather the multiple gyms). There are six basketball courts, four tracks, two soccer fields, a separate building for gymnastics, and the biggest weight room I’ve ever seen – and that’s only on half of the property. I’m sure my coaches will be happy to read that I can use these facilities at any time! The cafeteria is also made up of multiple levels in order to accommodate the hundreds of athletes, and serves traditional Chinese food, with no sweets and a lot of pork. I even found a way to get some kind of oatmeal with both pork and corn in it. If you’re wondering, it was actually pretty good.
The fascination for basketball here never ceases to amaze me. There were a few people hanging around the courts when I went on Friday night, and they were quick to peak their heads around the corner as soon as I started dribbling a basketball. Seconds later, they all had their phones out to take pictures of me. When I got back to the lobby of the dorms, one of the camp’s translators brought his phone over to me to watch the end of the China v. Iran exhibition game. His friends quickly crowded the table, and it was amazing to watch them get so enthused by “their team,” as they called it. The importance that they place on national pride is both remarkable and admirable. Minutes following the end of the China win, the subject of Team Canada came up, and the guys’ eyes widened as they heard that my brother had played for a country. “What an honor!”
Having the opportunity to visit China is something that I would wish upon all basketball players, of any age and of any level. The country’s passion and dedication to the sport continues to grow, and is frankly quite inspiring. I truly believe that being here has helped me better understand different aspects of the game, such as the fandom, as well as further developed my love for the sport, which I hadn’t realized was possible. For the next two weeks, I will try to portray the image of basketball in China as best I can, whether it is through my words, the grin of a young fan, or the intense focus of a player performing a drill. With that, I’m looking forward to the official start of camp tomorrow, knowing that I will be surrounded by people who are dedicating so much time and energy to the sport we love.