Texas Men’s Basketball Is Going to China


In November, Texas men’s basketball will make history by taking part in the first U.S. professional or collegiate regular season game to be played in China. In a spectacle set up during the reign of former men’s athletics director Steve Patterson, the Horns will open the 2015-16 season against the Washington Huskies in Shanghai.

As part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative, the Huskies are a self-evident choice: The Pacific Northwest has a large Asian population, is closer to Asia than much of the U.S., and has a direct connection to China in UW-Seattle and Tsinghua University’s recently announced Global Innovation Exchange. Texas’ involvement may be less intuitive, but the reasoning is simple: The Texas Longhorns are one of the biggest brands in global sports.

Another reason Texas is on this trip is because the sponsor, Alibaba, is a Chinese technology company, and both Austin and Seattle are tech industry leaders. In what is being called an “immersive experience,” both teams will get to check out Alibaba’s headquarters and the e-commerce giant will get to ingratiate itself with college students. Alibaba boasts a workforce of 35,000 people between the ages of 20-29. Additionally, the Horns and Huskies will go sightseeing for some cultural enrichment.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who is organizing the game, is a friend of Patterson. In a conference with reporters, he stressed a desire to build relationships between Texas, Washington, and China.

“We will be promoting goodwill and understanding between our two countries,” Scott said. “Shaka [Smart] is at Texas. There’s a top-10 recruiting class at Washington. There’s significant intrigue and a historic nature.” 

Scott added that there are 300 million basketball fans in China, though what they’ve seen so far is mostly limited to NBA play. “What we’re going to be doing is connecting the dots—talking about great NBA players like [Kevin] Durant, [LaMarcus] Aldridge, [Tristan] Thompson, and where they came from,” Scott said. “We’re going to use that to explain the connective tissue between intercollegiate athletics and the NBA.” 

Texas Athletics couldn’t be reached for comment.

The game will tip-off at 11 a.m. on November 14 in China—9 p.m. on November 13 in Austin. For those willing to trek halfway around the world, tickets to the game at the 18,000-capacity Mercedes-Benz Arena start at $80, with premium seats going for as high as $780. The Texas Exes Flying Longhorns travel program is also offering a China trip centered around the game.

The Pac-12 plans on making this game an annual event. While this does not mean that Texas men’s basketball will get the invite each year, Texas fans can expect more international games across the board. In fact, that ball is already rolling. Last year, a volleyball team from China came to Austin to play the Horns in an exhibition game. This game was scheduled under former athletics director DeLoss Dodds and fit nicely into Patterson’s plan of expanding the Texas brand. The women’s soccer team also played an exhibition game in February against Monterrey Tech, a team from Mexico.

Patterson was in discussions to play a Texas football game in Mexico City before 2020. This game would be against a Pac-12 opponent. There were also unconfirmed rumors of Patterson wanting Texas baseball to play a game in Cuba. With Patterson out, those games may never come to fruition, but the basketball game in China is still a go.

Regardless of intent, the team and coaching staff will get the opportunity of a lifetime to fly 20 hours to China and see another part of the world. While exact details on what will happen during the team’s visit have been scant, there will be a game, Shaka Smart will unleash his version of the Havoc defense, and Prince Ibeh may or may not be the tallest person in the country. Maybe Texas will develop a huge Chinese fanbase, or maybe the players will just eat their weight in xiaolongbao (Shanghai steamed buns). Either way, one thing is clear: Texas is going international.

Image courtesy UT Athletics.


Tags: , ,


No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment