SHANGHAI — The Georgetown men’s basketball team concluded its goodwill tour of China with a scrimmage against Taiwan here on Tuesday night, a trip that was marred by a brawl during an exhibition game last week against a Chinese military team.
Hoyas Coach John Thompson III, Georgetown’s players and university officials, though, have made every effort to move beyond the enmity in the immediate aftermath of Thursday night’s melee between Georgetown and the Bayi Rockets in what originally was supposed to be the second game of a two-day event billed as the “China-US Friendship Basketball Match.”
“It was a unique experience that I’m glad we did,” Thompson said of the trip after an 83-64 victory over Taiwan at a gym next to the team hotel. “Time will tell, but I do think that we will see the benefits of this trip come January, February, March.”
Organizers originally intended for the excursion to provide the team an opportunity for athletic, cultural and educational exchange in the world’s most populous country. It also was designed to promote Georgetown’s brand internationally and allow alumni and supporters of the basketball program uncommon access to players and the coaching staff.
For instance, the Hoyas contingent toured politically and historically significant sites such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square during their stay in China’s capital, and the entire delegation was front and center for a surprise appearance from Vice President Biden, who was in Beijing for the start of economic talks in Asia.
Biden attended the opening game of the friendship matches on Wednesday at the Olympic Sports Center and spoke to the team in its makeshift locker room before tip-off. He then sat in the first row of the stands behind the Hoyas bench with, among others, university president Jack DeGioia and Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner who attended Georgetown.
At halftime, Biden shook hands with other alumni and supporters, and he spoke briefly to fans sitting in an adjoining section behind center court on his way out of the gym. The following night Georgetown played Bayi, and the game ended with 9 minutes 32 seconds to go in a benches-clearing free-for-all that included chair throwing and full plastic water bottles hurled at the players and coaches.
The next morning, Thompson and players Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson met privately with the Rockets coach and two players for a reconciliation discussion that Georgetown officials initiated. The meeting at Beijing Capital Airport included an exchange of an autographed basketball and Thompson inviting Chinese kids to the Hoyas summer basketball camp next year.
The team arrived in Shanghai on Friday unsure of what to expect and two days later played the Liaoning Dinosaurs, who like Bayi also are part of the professional Chinese Basketball Association. The incident-free game was considerably more representative of what Thompson and his players had envisioned when they came to China, and the events of the last five days, including a youth clinic and Thompson’s instructional session with local high school coaches, are what Georgetown has been emphasizing leading up to its departure Wednesday afternoon.
“Overall the trip has been great from a basketball perspective as well as just from a cultural perspective, getting a chance to see this country and learn about this country,” Thompson said. “It’s something that is invaluable.”