Last week we covered the Shanghai portion in part 1 of our Pro Skills Basketball China Tour recap, so this week it’s on to Chengdu for part 2!
Chengdu is not the biggest or the most famous city in China, but over the course of our four-day visit, the PSB China Tour group savored its signature slow pace.
We saw Pandas, played Chinese Basketball Association U21 Blue Whale team, and burnt our mouths (willingly) with spicy Sichuan cuisine.
Overall, we saw a markedly different – and more authentic – version of China in comparison to sprawling Shanghai or bustling Beijing.
When our China tour group met for orientation, most of the group had not heard of Chengdu (成都). But by the end of the trip almost everyone said the time spent in the heart of Sichuan province (四川省) was the most memorable part of the entire experience.
DAY 4 & 5 – Chengdu Arrival, Game vs. Sichuan Blue Whale
Our hotel was only two blocks from Chunxi road (春熙路), the city’s central shopping district. Shortly after arriving, we went for hand-cut noodles and then gave everyone time to explore the surrounding area.
In Chunxi one can find everything from the highest of high-end designer brands to the most informal back alley mom-and-pop shops. Players came back with stories of bargaining, picture taking, and talking with people eager to sharpen their English skills.
The following morning we drove forty minutes out of the city for a friendly against the U-21’s from Chengdu’s CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) team, the Sichuan Blue Whale.
After touring their facilities with Nick Gibson, the Blue Whale’s trainer and a good friend of PSB, we took to the court for a warm-up.
Although it was the Blue Whale U-21 squad, they did not lack for pro-level talent. According to Nick, a number of their players are competing for serious playing time this upcoming season.
Among those was a 6’10” power forward who was the 2018 CBA number one overall draft pick and a combo guard (#17) who has a real chance of making China’s national team within the next two to three years.
The game was physical early, but as both team’s settled in it calmed down. Few outside shots fell for PSB in the first half, but Kenny Hairston did hit a buzzer-beating three to cut the deficit to six going into half-time.
However outsized, our PSB squad refused to quit. Great ball movement and better transition defense brought the game within three at one point, but ultimately the Blue Whales hung on for a ten point victory.
It was a strong effort from both sides, and hopefully the beginning of a great relationship between PSB and the Blue Whales. You can see highlights from the game in the video above!
DAY 5 (Night) – Chengdu Hot Pot Dinner
Later that evening our team went to a famous Hot Pot restaurant near Chunxi road. For those who have not sampled this Sichuan staple, Hot Pot is an ideal group meal probably easiest to think of as a Chinese fondue.
However, instead of dipping meats and vegetables into melted cheese, the Sichuanese substitute a delicious blend of chili oils and spices that provide a puzzling, hot, and yet enjoyable numbing sensation.
All of the guys were brave and proved willing to try even the most exotic options on the menu – including brain.
DAY 6 – Chengdu Pandas, Sichuan University Playground Pickup
Aside from Hot Pot, Chengdu is also famous for being the home of the Giant Panda. Despite the crowds at the research center, everyone thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Pandas eat, play, and sleep, in person.
After a rest at the hotel, the team ventured to Sichuan University’s outdoor courts for some pick-up. Our court quickly drew a crowd as we played 4v4 half court against the regular park-goers. Once we decided we had enough, we took a few pictures and then called it a night.
DAY 7 – Chengdu China Basketball Clinic
The next day, we traveled to the eastern part of the city for a free clinic with some of PSB’s students in Chengdu. Our team was enthusiastic and seemed to really enjoy giving back to the local community.
After living in Chengdu for six months and working with these students full time, it was really fun to see them interact with their American PSB counterparts.
I think they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to bring our two groups together, whether in China or the US.
Finally, as in Shanghai, we offered an authentic look at life in Chengdu (成都的生活方式). During our last night in the city, we took the metro and mingled with locals on Jinli ancient street.
As Coach Brendan and Coach Ross got their ears cleaned by traditional Sichuanese doctors, some of the players sampled street feed like grilled squid and steamed pork buns.
Everyone did a bit of shopping for their friends and families back stateside before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel as the group had to get up early the next morning to finish up the last leg of our trip in Beijing!
Did you read part 1 of our China Tour in Shanghai? If not, check it out here!
Next week we’ll bring you the 3rd and final part of this blog series, which will cover the final portion of the PSB China Tour in Beijing … Stay tuned!
Also, make sure to listen to the PSB Podcast “Pick & Pop” episode on Basketball in China featuring Karl Barkley and hear what it is like to live in China as a PSB coach.