Providence Day star details experiences hooping overseas
by Kyle Wood
Editor’s note: The Providence Day boys’ basketball team had an opportunity to spend seven days in China for he US/China World Basketball Spectacular. Not only did the team play professional players, but they also broadened their cultural awareness through sightseeing.
Kyle Wood, a three-year starter for the Chargers, details some highlights from the trip.
After a long, grueling day of travel from Charlotte to Newark to Beijing, we successfully arrived in China. We were greeted by Michael and Rose – the people who would be showing us around and doing all of the organizing for us – and by plenty of photographers who would follow us around for the course of the trip. We took a bus to our hotel and drove briefly through Beijing, and its size immediately caught my attention. It was noticeably larger than New York City, and there were definitely more people on the streets. We had a large welcome dinner waiting for us at the hotel, and we got to meet Shane Duffy, the man who organized the event. After dinner, we were all exhausted and went upstairs to sleep and prepare for the first real day.
We woke up bright and early to a buffet breakfast with plenty of different foods than we were used to. After breakfast, we boarded a bus to head over to The Great Wall of China. Once we arrived, the weather was absolutely freezing with a strong wind chill, but once we got moving up the mountain, we warmed up. The size of The Great Wall was stunning. The thing I liked the most about The Great Wall was the surrounding background. The mountains around The Wall were so pretty. We climbed up a substantial part of The Wall and took many pictures. Afterwards, we had lunch at the bottom of The Wall. We were greeted by local high school students who showed off some of their talents while we ate. A couple boys and a girl sang native songs, one girl showed off her impressive painting, one boy played the clarinet, and another girl performed a traditional dance. We soon headed back on the bus to Peking University where we practiced with players on the team and the other US teams to prepare for games. After a long day, we had dinner and went to bed.
We woke up ready for another day of sightseeing and headed to the Forbidden City. The architecture was incredibly impressive and the patterns on the buildings were pretty. The most impressive were the rooms where the emperor would address certain issues while sitting in a large throne. After lunch, we headed off to practice, but this time with a local high school. This team would be in the tournament, and they were good. After practice, we exchanged gifts with them, then headed to
dinner. We met Stan Lee, the comic book writer, at dinner. It was very cool to meet him, and he talked to us briefly. Afterwards, we wanted to get a good night’s rest before the opening game of the tournament.
We opened the day with a press conference where players answered some questions and we heard what to expect from the day. After that, we got ready for our game against the Bayi Rockets, a local professional team. While we were warming up, I was surprised by how tall they were – their shortest player was about as tall as our tallest. We played a hard-fought game, but it was definitely difficult adjusting to different rules (we played FIBA rules) and a different style of reffing. Also, it was tough because we couldn’t really communicate with the refs after they would make a call. It was very cool though to play against other guys who don’t speak the same language. They were a great team and ended up beating us. After the game, we had our first Western food on the whole trip: McDonald’s. We were so ready to have some version of American food after all of the noodles, rice and dumplings, especially after being offered turtle soup and pig brains.
We had a cultural experience in the morning where my group got to dye pieces of cloth with certain colors and patterns. It was a fun experience and cool to make a gift to give someone back home. After that, we got ready for our second game. We played a local high school team this time (not a professional team). We adjusted to the rules and started getting the hang of it in this game. We beat them and every player on our team scored, which was a good moment for us. We needed some momentum heading into the first round of bracket play.
In the morning, we played against another professional Chinese team who had played Montverde (number 2 team in USA) closely. It was a hard fought game that we ultimately won by four points. It was fun to beat a professional team, and by now, we had gotten used to the different rules. With that win, we got a chance at redemption against the team that beat us the first game. We played that game in the afternoon, and it was one of the most fun basketball games I’ve ever played in. It was high scoring and very competitive. There were a good amount of local fans watching, along with some of our parents and the other teams. The game went down to the wire, and we successfully avenged our earlier loss and won by three. It was so much fun getting to compete at such a high level against guys from the other side of the world. This win also put us in the championship game.
After the games, we had another cultural experience, and I got to learn about Chinese tea and some of my teammates got to make tea themselves. It was a great way to end the day. The next day was the championship game against Montverde. We watched the team we beat win the third place game over the other US team before us. The game was played at Peking University, and it was the gym used for ping pong and could seat around 6,000 people. We lost the championship game, but it was still an awesome environment. After the game, there were awards given and lots of group photos. We headed over to the banquet and closing dinner afterwards. The banquet was great with awesome performances, that included some Chinese players dancing to Snoop Dogg. It was a great way to conclude an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I learned so much from it about the Chinese culture while also improving in basketball. I will forever cherish the experiences I had.