Yale Basketball In China Blog

Yale Basketball In China Blog

The Yale men's basketball team is taking a nine-day tour of China. Periodically during the trip, the players and staff will write about the experience.

Wednesday, May 25 – Greetings from the United States. Our wonderful journey to Chengdu and  Shanghai is behind us, but the memories will last a lifetime. Usually the talk among the players at an airport or on the bus is about the NBA, music or some other mundane topic. Today, the discussions were all about the trip, at least among the small group that was headed to San Francisco. For all of us this has been an extraordinary experience that wildly surpassed all of our expectations, but hopefully it's just the beginning of what will become an unforgettable 2011-12 season.

Wednesday, May 25 - Here's a link to Shanghai Jiao Tong University's recap of Monday's game


Tuesday, May 24 - Here are the overall statistics and box scores from the three games where official statistics were kept.


Tuesday, May 24 – Here's a photo gallery from our last full day in China, which included a 45-minute boat ride up the Huangpu River, which runs through Shanghai's financial district, a trip to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Building, the third tallest building in the world and a visit to the Shanghai American School, where head coach James Jones and the players talked to the students about our trip, what it takes to play Division I college basketball and the importance of education.


Tuesday, May 24 - Here's some video of the first game against Southwest Petroleum University from the Chengdu Basketball Association


Monday, May 23 - With only one day left on the trip, rising sophomore Will Bartlett looks at the difference between Chengdu and Shanghai and offers some perspective on Monday's game

Our last day in Chengdu came and we said our goodbyes to that portion of the trip; to the neighborhood around our hotel that we got to know fairly well, to the people who showed us around (shout-out to Monty, Joey, and our tour guide, Simon) and to the city itself. We were on to a much bigger place that none of us could hope to leave with the same sense of familiarity with which we left Chengdu: Shanghai. 

It took no more than a few minutes of our driving tour of the city on our way from the airport to our hotel to see that Chengdu and Shanghai are very different.  Though some of us may have been somewhat groggy from the 5:30am wake-up call, we were still taken in by the array of architectural styles on display in different parts of the city.  The financial district consists of tall, modern, and even futuristic looking buildings that strongly contrast many of the older buildings seen around town. About a 10 minute walk from our hotel is a river running through Shanghai.  Sitting on the steps of the walkway surrounding the river with the financial district on one side and older, imperial style buildings on the other, one cannot help but see that Shanghai is a bustling, limitless city of both modern features and tradition.

That walk also takes you through an upscale stretch of shopping hot spots.  Being from New York City, I couldn't help but be reminded of Fifth Avenue.  This stretch, however, as well as most of the expected international designer names, had a five floor NikeTown and a Li Ning, the Chinese Nike imitator that many of the teams we played against were sponsored by.   

The city's size and its clear indications of the presence of the western world through business and culture are responsible for perhaps the biggest difference we experienced between Shanghai and Chengdu: Shanghai, being among the largest cities in China and more of a tourist destination than Chengdu, is more used to seeing a group of westerners. The celebrity status we enjoyed in Chengdu was reduced to a level closer to what we are used to back home.  The crowd of people stopping to marvel at the sight of our awkwardly large squad of American basketball players became the occasional person; it still happened, but happened less.

Shanghai also proved better competition. We lost a close game today to Shanghai Jaio Tong University 73-72  STJO was a strong, skilled team with much more size than the other teams we played, and we suffered from a poor shooting game as a team.  Though this loss was as tough as they always are, there is no question it helped us learn and grow as a team, which is, after all, in this unique environment, what this trip is about.


Bulldogs Drop Heartbreaker In China Finale

SHANGHAI, China – Yale's trip to China almost ended in exhilarating fashion, but Reggie Willhite's shot as time expired missed and the Bulldogs dropped a 73-72 decision to Shanghai Jiao Tong, one of the top university teams in China.

The team will have one more day of sightseeing in Shanghai before heading home on Wednesday. Yale finished with a 3-1 record on the trip.

Greg Mangano paced the Bulldogs with 25 points. Austin Morgan added 14, while Jeremiah Kreisberg scored nine, Willhite finished with seven, Greg Kelley had six, Rhett Anderson scored five and Jesse Pritchard four.

The game went back-and-forth throughout. The Bulldogs trailed 19-14 after one quarter, but outscored Shanghai 23-20 in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 39-37 at halftime. Yale entered the fourth quarter with a 55-54 lead.

Michael Grace, Brian Katz, Willhite, Kelley and Mangano started for the Bulldogs.

Here's a photo gallery from the game


Sunday, May 22 - Here is a photo gallery from our last night in Chendu and the first day in Shanghai.


Sunday, May 22 - Greetings from Shanghai. The team arrived safely here after a 2.5 hour flight from Chengdu. Rising junior Austin Morgan shares his thoughts on the trip so far.

China, needless to say, is a mysterious and fascinating place for those who haven't ever visited (and even those who have). I came to China as an eight year old and had some vague memories of the trip, but coming here as a college aged student is a totally new experience. Before our arrival, I believe everyone had preconceived notions about what they thought China would be. We all have seen the movies, witnessed the Olympics and heard second hand accounts of people who have visited China already. Some were skeptical, some were hesitant, but overall everyone was excited to embark on this new experience.

Now after spending six days here, I feel China has shattered everyone's expectations. The hospitality and quality of service shown to us has been unmatched. The passion for basketball by the Chinese people has inspired our team. Chengdu and Shanghai are both extremely large, modern cities with their own unique flavors. Chengdu, although unknown to most Americans, is a beautiful city with a world renowned Panda Breeding Facility. Shanghai is a financial hub that is littered with beautiful buildings and varying architectural styles. My first impression of "The Bund" was one of awe.

The food here has been great, although some of our stomachs (including mine) have had a little trouble adjusting to the strong spices and flavors of the native food. China is an amazing country and our team is very grateful for this opportunity. We have felt welcomed every step of the way, and we cannot thank everyone involved in this foreign trip enough.

Yesterday we played a game versus the Sichuan Whales, a NBL pro league. It was a competitive game and a great test. We were able to pull out a six-point win thanks to contributions from everybody one the team. One person who came through in the clutch was Sam Martin. Have to give credit where credit is due. It feels nice to be 3-0, but we still have one more to go. Our work isn't done yet, but we want to make sure to have a little fun here while maintaining our focus on the ultimate goal, which is to improve as a team.


Bulldogs Roll To Third Straight Win In China

CHENGDU, China – Greg Mangano scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Yale won its third straight game on its 10-day tour of China, knocking off Sichuan JinQiang 81-75. Reggie Willhite added 17 points, and Sam Martin scored 14.

Sichuan is a professional team in China and features two Americans, T.J. Bannister, who played at Virginia, and Ryan Wright, who played at Oklahoma.

Yale led 19-13 at the end of the first quarter and 31-28 at halftime. The Bulldogs sealed the win by outscoring Sichuan 30-23 in the fourth quarter.

Willhite was 7-of-9 from the field and had four steals. Martin was 4-of-6 from three-point range.

James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball, used his third different starting lineup of the trip. Will Bartlett, Willhite, Isaiah Salafia, Martin and Jeremiah Kreisberg opened the game for the Bulldogs.

Yale outrebounded Sichuan 37-21.

Salafia finished with nine points. Austin Morgan had seven, Kreisberg scored six, Bartlett had five and Brian Katz chipped in four.

The Bulldogs play their final game of the trip on Monday in Shanghai.

Here's a photo gallery from the game


Saturday, May 21 - The city of Chengdu features one of the world's great thrill rides. It's called taking a taxi. A 10-minute ride anywhere in the city is sure to make even the calmest person's blood pressure boil.

To call the driver's aggressive would be an understatement. Traffic signals are mere suggestions. Yielding to pedestrians? Forget it. Right turn from the left lane? No problem. And with taxi drivers, it's that times 10. Even our bus driver, who has gotten us everywhere quite safely, isn't shy about blowing his horn. Just ask Coach Jones. Amazingly in our four days in Chengdu, we have seen the aftermath of only one accident. Near misses? Well that's a different story. I guess there is a method to the madness.

The good news is we are taking a plane to Shanghai.


Saturday, May 21 - A photo gallery of Yale's visit with the pandas


Bulldogs Improve To 2-0 On China Trip; Knockoff Southwest Jiaotong University 88-72

CHENGDU, China – Greg Mangano scored 26 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots as Yale topped Southwest Jiaotong University 88-72 before a crowd of nearly 6,000 in the second of its four games on a 10-day tour of China. Austin Morgan added 11 points and five steals.

Mangano was 11-of-14 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs shot 53 percent from the field and outrebounded Southwest Jiaotong 36-15.

Yale led 18-14 after the opening quarter and 48-39 at halftime.

Southwest Jiatong made a couple of runs in the second half, but the Bulldogs had an answer for every one.

The trip allows James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball, to give playing time to all 12 players and experiment with different lineups. For this game, he started Mangano, Morgan, Michael Grace, Jesse Pritchard and Rhett Anderson.

Ten players scored. Grace and Reggie Willhite both had nine points. Sam Martin added seven, Will Bartlett, Isiash Salafia and Jeremiah Kreisberg each had six and Brian Katz scored two.

Southwest Jiaotong was hosting an American university for the first time.

Here is a photo gallery from the game.


Friday, May 20 - Rhett Anderson write about how Yale spent its day.

Four days into the trip, we've played two games and visited some of Chengdu's oldest historical sites.  We started today off by visiting the Jinsha Historical Site, an archaeological excavation site.  It was discovered in 2001 when a commercial development was suspended because construction workers found ancient artifacts buried in the ground.  Archaeologists continued digging, discovering hundreds of ancient pottery shards, bones, gold instruments, and elephant tusks.  A museum was built to house the artifacts and to preserve the excavation site.  Excavation has since stopped, but the impressive collection remains on permanent display. 

We then drove to Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, for our second game of the trip.  We played to another capacity crowd, but this arena was much bigger than last night's, and it was filled to the brim, plus there were hundreds of people hanging over the railings and ringing the court.  It was an amazing environment to play in; so far there have been great crowds at both of our games. 

Today's game was closer than yesterday's, but we still won by 16, 88-72.  Afterwards, the post-game mayhem was more tightly controlled than it was yesterday, because the Southwest Jiaotang students surrounded the court and linked arms to keep fans from rushing the court when the game ended.  By the time we got out of the locker room, however, there were still some fans hanging around for pictures and autographs – and some of us were even asked for phone numbers and email addresses!

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this experience is very different from just about anything we've seen.  We are elevated to superstar status, we're mobbed for autographs and pictures with giddy fans after games, and everywhere we go people point and stare.   I'm not sure if this is because we're American, because people think we're going to the NBA, because we go to Yale, or if it's a little of each, but regardless our visit is clearly very meaningful to the fans here.  Personally, the superstar treatment I've received has made me realize how little I really knew about Chinese culture before coming here and has made me appreciate how different our two cultures are.

Here is a photo gallery from the trip to the Jinsha Historical Site.


Friday, May 20 - This link from the Chengdu Basketball Association has video of Yale's arrival at the Chengdu Airport.


Friday, May 20 - Jeremiah Kreisberg fancies himself an amateur photographer. Here's a photo gallery of a few of his images from the trip so far.


Thursday May 19 – Rising sophomore Isaiah Salafia writes about Yale's first game, a 96-53 victory over Southwest Petroleum University:

Alright, so we played our first game today against Southwest Petroleum University here in China. We won by 43 points, but the experience is something that I, nor anyone else present, is likely to forget. We showed up and could immediately tell things were a little different from back home. The locals lingered around watching our every move, and even the littlest dunk in warm ups made them go crazy, yelling and clapping from the balconies above.

The place was sold out with probably a few thousand people, and the excitement was easily tangible from the opening tip. The difference in rules was slightly challenging initially, as the three-point line was NBA range, the key was slightly widened, the balls were over-inflated and slippery, and there was a 24 second shot clock. But we managed. Everybody contributed and played well as we worked our way to victory. The fan favorites included Reggie after his back-to-back dunks, Grace with some flashy passes, and Greg Mangano with what can't be described as anything other than "easy buckets."

But what was the most impressive and surprising was the aftermath of the game. The instant it was over, the locals amassed rapidly on the court. We shook hands with the opposing team and, without delay, our temporary lives of stardom began. Turn one way and you'd have four or five people pushing pen and paper in your direction asking for autographs. On the other side, there were 10 people bustling and shoving asking for pictures. I know that I personally had to take several pictures with a puppy, Grace was manipulated into performing dribbling drills, and all of us will more than likely have a plethora of new pen pals resulting from the distribution of our email addresses.

Sam Martin says he could never be famous and that it would all get very old for him very quickly. The majority of us tend to disagree. Coach says to keep it all in perspective, which is obviously wise advice, but I feel as if reveling in the moments we are presented with is sure to make this trip even more exciting than it already is. We have our second game tomorrow, and I wonder if the atmosphere will be similar to the environment we dealt with today. If so, it will, without a doubt, be eagerly embraced by myself and the rest of the team.


Bulldogs Roll 96-53 In First Game In China

CHENGDU, China – Greg Mangano scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Yale cruised to a 96-53 victory over Southwest Petroleum University in the first of four games during its stay in China. Reggie Willhite added 14 points, four steals and a couple of dunks that wowed a packed house of 2,000 in the arena and thousands more on a video feed in a courtyard on campus.

The Bulldogs led 42-27 at halftime and broke the game open by outscoring Southwest Petroleum 29-14 in the third quarter. The game was played under international rules.

Eleven of the 12 players on the trip scored and the one who didn't, Michael Grace, had a team-high seven assists. Sam Martin finished with 12 points, Will Bartlett had 11, Austin Morgan and Jeremiah Kreisberg had nine, Greg Kelley scored eight, Isaiah Salafia had seven, Jesse Pritchard and Rhett Anderson scored four and Brian Katz chipped in two.

James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball, hoped playing with a 24-second shot clock on the trip would help his team work on an up-tempo game, and the Bulldogs responded by scoring nearly 100 points.

Yale shot 63 percent (37 of 58) from the field and had a 29-13 edge in rebounding. The Bulldogs also blocked five shots.

After the game, the Southwest Petroleum students spent nearly 30 minutes on the floor with the Yale players taking pictures. The team was then treated to a wonderful dinner at a hotel on campus.


Thursday, May 19 - Here is a photo gallery from the first game.


Thursday, May 19 - If Greg Mangano wanted to, he could probably make quite a bit of money on this trip. At 6-10, he is the center of attention wherever he goes, and he estimates he has been asked at least 20 times to pose for a picture with someone during the first two days in Chengdu. If he charged 10 RMB (the Chinese currency) for each picture, he would have some nice walking around money. Greg, though, takes it all in stride and has been quite accommodating.  On one occasion, he was admiring something in the window of a store, and when he turned around, there was a small group of people all taking his picture.

He posed for quite a few pictures during Yale's tour of The Wuhou Shrine. The Wuhou Shrine was initially built in 223 AD and now covers 150000 square meters. It consists of Liubei's Huiling and the temples of Zhuge liang and other ministers in Shuhan of the Three Kingdoms. The shrine has been open for more than 1780 years.

Yale's game with Southwest Petroleum was big news in the local newspaper, which had pictures of Mangano, Michael Grace and Jeremiah Kreisberg. Mangano was compared to Blake Griffin, Grace to Chris Paul and Kreisberg to Pau Gasol. Let's hope they play them in the game.


Thursday, May 19 - Here is a photo gallery from Yale's tour of The Wuhou Shrine


Wednesday, May 18 - From rising sophomore Jesse Pritchard:

After a week of intense two-a-day practices, team lifts and a grueling 24-hour trip, we finally arrived in Chengdu. After passing through customs, we were welcomed by video cameras while waiting for Greg Kelley and Jeremiah Kreisberg to locate their lost baggage. (I don't think the Chinese realize we are only Mid-Major.) On our drive to the hotel, we quickly realized we weren't in Kansas anymore.  The rules of driving, or lack thereof, had many of us looking for seatbelts. I guess one can drive on either side of the road in China, and unlike New Haven, cars won't stop for humans.  

My first afternoon in China was an experience to say the least. Greg and I found ourselves in a baby mall that was dimly lit and the farthest thing from a Toys-R-Us. After aimlessly walking in and out of alley ways, and multiple bootleg shops, we decided it would be best to head back. The only problem was we had no idea which way to go. Luckily, we had a hotel card with the address. We asked the next person we saw for directions and immediately received five different directions. I don't think anyone knew what they were talking about. Eventually, we found our way back thanks to a young man who spoke English and saw us in disarray.

I think it is safe to say no one knew what to expect out of this trip. And after a two-hour walk around the busy streets of Chengdu, I still don't. The one thing I do know is Yale Basketball must be the best looking group of individuals this town has ever seen. What else would explain why they can't take their eyes off us?


Wednesday, May 18 - Here is a photo gallery of Yale's first full day in Chengdu


Tuesday, May 17 – One of the benefits of a foreign trip is it is good for team camaraderie. That certainly was the case for the early part of Yale's trip to China. The Bulldogs spent nearly 20 hours, including 16 straight from JFK to Hong Kong, together on an airplane. Never a good thing for a tall basketball team. Fortunately, Cathay Pacific had a nice collection of movies and television shows to watch. If there's a movie that recently came out on DVD, there's a good chance now that the members of Yale's traveling party have seen it. The "Good Samaritan" Award goes to assistant coach Matt Kingsley, who gave up a coveted aisle seat to allow a family traveling with young children to all sit together. After leaving New Haven on Monday morning at 6 a.m., the team bus pulled into the hotel in Chengdu just before midnight Tuesday night China time. When the team came out of customs at Chengdu Airport, there were a number of photographers and videographers there to greet them. It seems Yale's visit to the city is a big deal. The team will have a shootaround at Nike Park tomorrow and there will be reception with the mayor in the morning. Time for a good night's rest before tomorrow's activities.


Sunday, May 15 - The Bulldogs finished up their five days of preparation for the trip this afternoon. The team will leave on Monday morning and will arrive in Chengdu on what will be Tuesday night. Check back to yalebulldogs.com for further updates. In the mean time here are a couple of articles that ran in the New Haven Register over the weekend that might be of interest to Yale fans.


Thursday, May 12 - Yale Heads To Chengdu, Shanghai For Four Games

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's basketball team is getting an early start to the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs are headed to China for nine days. The team leaves on Monday and will visit Chengdu and Shanghai. Yale will play four games against Chinese universities. The opener is May 19 against the University of Electronic Science and Technology.

"It will be a great learning experience for our team, both on and off the court," said rising senior Greg Mangano, who learned earlier this week he was selected to try out for a U.S. national team.  The tryouts are in late July in Colorado Springs, Colo. "The trip will help prepare us for next season, and we'll have the opportunity to grow as a team.  I'm thankful for the opportunity we've been given."

The Chinese government of Chengdu invited Yale to play against the best Chinese Universities. Yale great John Lee '58 set up an endowment several years ago that allows the team to make a foreign trip once every four years. The last two trips have taken the Bulldogs to Spain and Italy.

"We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we look forward to the competition and the culture of the country," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball.

The NCAA allows five days of practice time for teams making foreign trips during the offseason, and Yale started its preparation on Wednesday.

"This trip will give us a jump start for next season, and the FIBA rules will help with the up tempo style we would like to implore in 2011-12," Jones said.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity