The University of Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team traveled to China last week for the fifth annual Pac-12 China Game, a tradition created through the Pac-12 Global Initiative. Their trip ultimately culminated in a non-conference season opener against the Arizona State Sun Devils. CU came home victorious, beating the Sun Devils 81-71.
CU spent the week in Shanghai as part of an effort to expand the cultural horizons of the Pac-12.
“Anytime you are fortunate enough to experience a different culture, that in itself is really a blessing,” said sophomore forward Evan Battey. “I think that was good for us, on the court and off the court. It was really fun. It was a good trip.”
The opportunity wasn’t limited to the court. Colorado players also spent time with children from the Yao Ming Foundation, a youth development organization founded by the famed Chinese basketball player in the wake of devastating 2008 earthquakes. Players also went to the Shanghai Disney Resort and played an exhibition game against the Peking University of Beijing.
“Disney Shanghai was awesome to go to and an awesome experience with my brothers,” Battey said.
A foreign trip is a great chance for any team to spend time with each other. According to Battey, the team often couldn’t find cell service, allowing them to talk and bond even more as a team.
“All our guys had fun, (and) really bonded over there in China,” Battey said. “If you are put in a different circumstance than you’re used to, you tend to hold on to people you have close to you. We just bonded and really embraced that different culture with each other.”
While the trip was a wonderful time and a great experience for the team, it’s only the beginning of the season. CU will turn around to face the University of San Diego this Saturday, and then UC Irvine on Monday.
“We went over there to win a game and we won the game, (we) had a great experience but that’s behind us,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “It’s time to move on and that’s what we need to do. Every game is important and they’re all equally important. We should be ready to play our home opener. I knew we’d be ready against Arizona State, it was our first game. We should be ready on Saturday.”
The Buffs will look to end a two-game losing streak against San Diego in their home opener. However, Boyle hopes not to see fear in the eyes of his team.
“I hope they’re approaching it just like every other game,” Boyle said. “We know them, they’ve beat us the last two years, and our players know that. Revenge is for suckers. I’m not into revenge and I don’t want our players to be either. It certainly should give us added tension, but not added importance.”
A quick international turnaround poses a new challenge for CU. While the famous mile-high air of Boulder tends to be an advantage for CU sports, readjusting to the altitude threatens the Buffs this week. Beyond that, finding physical comfortability on the court after spending a week abroad with two long-distance flights will be tough.
“I think they’re still feeling some of the effects physically, I know I am,” Boyle said. “But that’s what this week is for, to get that out and get back into the routine.”
“Doing everything right, getting your workouts in, (and) your practices in,” said Battey about getting re-adjusted to Colorado. “That’s how you get in shape and get back to (the) mile-high (altitude). It’s a blessing to be back and I’m thankful we got the win over there, so all’s well.”
Following the trip, Colorado broke in the AP poll for the first time since January 2014, being ranked 25th. The noise around Buffs basketball has steadily risen this year, after impressive performances in the NIT and Pac-12 tournaments last year. However, the Buffs are looking to stay away from the noise and keep their focus on the court. Continuing to play with a chip on their shoulders is a focus for Battey, and following No. 1 Kentucky’s loss to an unranked Evansville team, one that appears quite important.
“My focus is to not buy into the noise, and still play every game like we’re picked 7th in the Pac-12, not picked 2nd,” Battey said. “Just that mentality, (and) not buying into the new rankings. Obviously that’s all good and dandy but you see what happens when teams that are ranked high get full of themselves. I’m trying my hardest not to let that happen on my team and not to let that happen to myself.”
CU will open up “The Keg” against San Diego this Saturday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer George Hakala at firstname.lastname@example.org.