Aug. 24, 2012
BEIJING - UCLA's basketball team enjoyed a full day of sightseeing in Beijing on Friday, visiting the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City in addition to eating lunch at a well-known roast duck restaurant.
After arriving in Beijing early Thursday morning, the Bruins continued their weeklong goodwill tour in China on Friday, the team's second day in the nation's capital. UCLA headed toward the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China by 7:30 a.m. The team's travel party spent over two hours exploring and hiking the Great Wall.
Many portions of the team's visit to the Great Wall were consumed by stops for photos - both with teammates and as requested by other tourists, including Chinese locals. As UCLA's team gathered for several minutes of team photos, local tourists took great interest in the team by asking for their own photographs or by posing with players.
UCLA's afternoon included a stop for lunch at the Guanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, before more sightseeing continued at the Forbidden City. Similar to the Great Wall visit, UCLA's photo opportunities with each other turned into similar opportunities for tourists to take photos with the Bruins.
In the evening, UCLA welcomed over 90 alumni and friends of the program with a special meet-and-greet event at the team's hotel in Beijing. Head coach Ben Howland addressed the crowd, introducing UCLA's players. In addition, Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott spoke to the crowd during the evening meet-and-greet session.
The Bruins will play their first of three exhibition games in China on Saturday evening. UCLA will take on Tsinghua University in Beijing on Saturday, before facing Shanghai Jiao Tong University on Monday and the Shanghai Sharks on Tuesday.
UCLA head coach Ben Howland (at 5:30 pm local time)
on visiting the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
"I thought the Great Wall was unbelievable. When you learn the history that it is over 4,000 miles long and it took over 500 years to build, that really gives you something to think about. And then you're standing on it and seeing the engineering and realizing how many bricks it took to build the wall, it's really incredible. And this was all done before Christ, over 2,000 years ago. It's truly an outstanding feat. I thought our team, everybody, was in awe of the opportunity to see that and be up there together. It was really a great experience. The Forbidden City was equally special, because of the history - learning about the 24 emperors who lived there and how the buildings are over 600 years old was amazing. I thought everybody had a fantastic day of sightseeing today, being able to see two of the great historical sites in Beijing and close to Beijing."
on playing basketball Saturday in addition to sightseeing
"It's a different pattern for us to be in, when you talk about going sightseeing in the morning before we play a game. Normally, we wouldn't do that on the day of game. We are going to go over and visit their university prior to the game and tour over there. The Federation in China has been very hospitable, and we are trying to be gracious guests and do whatever they ask us to do. So, it's not really a normal situation. We are going to have some of the players' families with us as we drive over there tomorrow. So this trip is very much more, or at least equal, about the cultural aspects than basketball.
"I think our team will be excited to get out there tomorrow. We're looking forward to the challenge. I know that the team that we are going to play has put a lot of preparation in to this game. I talked to their coach yesterday and he said that they've gone out of the city and played against four other teams in special competitions to prepare for us. The games will be televised on a local cable station in China. It should be a good experience for our players, and we hope that we play well, and even moreso, that we remain injury free."
senior guard Larry Drew II (at 7:30 am local time)
on UCLA's dinner Thursday evening and other activities
"Before we went to dinner, I went to this one nearby store to get some beats [headphones]. I brought them back, and only one side of my headphones worked which was pretty disappointing. But, I guess I should have known because they kept trying to worn me of buying items that are pretty much knock-offs.
"But after that our team and some of the family members on our trip went to this cool little spot with awesome dumplings. They served us at least seven different servings of dumplings, and we had all kinds - mushroom, vegetable, shrimp, pork you name it and they seemed to have it. I really liked the mushroom ones and the shrimp ones."
"After dinner, some of the players went back to the hotel and wanted to go shopping. I had seen some of the nearby stores and malls and stuff within the area early in the day. My mom, my brother and I, along with some of our coaching staff, took the subway one stop over to see Tiananmen Square. It was a really cool experience. Actually, that was my first time that I'd ever been on a subway. But Tiananmen Square was really cool and fun to see all lit up at night. They had a 30-foot portrait of Mao Zedong, so we took some pictures of that in front of the guards at the square. I'm glad that I got to witness that all."
freshman guard Kyle Anderson (at 11:30 am local time)
on UCLA's adventures at the Great Wall
"The morning was great. We got up early to get started on time, and we knew we were going to have a great day ahead of us. We arrived at the Great Wall and guys parted ways to walk around. It's one of the seven great wonders of the world, so we were definitely excited to see it. I walked the wall with my mom, going a long way up. It was just what I expected - I didn't know that it was this long, and I didn't even see half it, but it was great. The experience was awesome, and I was thrilled to have that experience with my teammates and my mother.
"It's a pretty steep and treacherous walk, whether you're going up a steep incline or walking back down the wall. It's a really good workout and was a really fun adventure. You've gotta hold on pretty tight to the railings on certain points. You're up in the mountains pretty high, so you need to be aware of where you're moving, of where you're stepping, and hold onto those railings when you're going down."
junior center Joshua Smith (at 4 pm local time)
on receiving so much attention on UCLA's sightseeing excursions
"It was kind of awkward at first, but the people here are really nice. It's just one of those things where people recognize that you are from a different country and they don't typically see guys like me or my teammates. It was a lot of fun. I love interacting with people, and this is the first time that I've been to China.
"It was pretty funny when we were touring the Forbidden City. There were these three small kids sitting next to me, and I wasn't paying much attention to them. But each time that I'd look over at the kids, they would run back to their parents. The parents would motion to their children to go over and say, `go say hi to them.' I would show them that I was being friendly and nice, and the next thing you know, the kids are wrapped around my legs and their parents were taking pictures. It's refreshing to see how friendly these people are even though I'm not able to speak their language.
"Our trip to the Great Wall definitely met my expectations. I didn't know what to expect. Just knowing that we visited one of the seven wonders of the world is unreal. It didn't really hit me until I climbed to the third tower and I realized how high up we were and how massive the wall is. I was more than satisfied going to that third tower. It's an unbelievable structure, especially given the historical significance."