Six thousand miles away from Berkeley, in Shanghai, China, sophomore Roger Moute a Bidias heard two familiar words: “Go Bears!”
They were the first words Moute a Bidias exchanged with former Golden Bear and fan favorite Max Zhang, who played with the Bears in 2009 and 2010.
It was a much more positive exchange than the one they had earlier in the day.
“He blocked my shot…I wasn’t too happy about that,” Moute a Bidias joked.
The current Cal forward Moute a Bidias and former Cal center Zhang’s worlds collided as part of the recent Pac-12 All-Stars Tour of China. Moute a Bidias and 12 other current collegiate players representing 10 Pac-12 programs joined Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak for an all-star tour as part of the Pac-12 Conference’s Globalization Initiative. The team finished their 10-day trip with a perfect 3-0 record after games against the Chinese University All-Stars (73-47), Jiangsu Dragons (85-63) and Zhang’s Shanghai Sharks (71-68) squad.
And despite the blocked shot, Moute a Bidias still found his interaction with Zhang to be an enriching and eye-opening experience.
“It was great to go against a guy who went here. I watched what he was when he was here, and I could see how he’s developed a lot,” he said.
For the French-born Moute a Bidias, who grew up in Cameroon, the experience also offered numerous opportunities outside of basketball. Aside from France, Cameroon and the United States, Moute a Bidias had not traveled very much before his China trip. He especially enjoyed visiting Beijing.
“It looked less Westernized, more old China with the Forbidden City and places like that,” he said.
Moute a Bidias was awestruck by sites such as Tiananmen Square, where he recalled the infamous image of the man standing in front of tanks to protest the Chinese democracy movement in 1989.
“That’s something I was really intrigued by since I first saw that picture and heard the story,” Moute a Bidias said. “Even just being able to be there was incredible. I wish I could have gone back on the street and stood right there.”
He even got to cross his No. 1 goal off his list -- visiting the Great Wall.
“It was more impressive in person. You look, and it never ends. It’s an everlasting wall. It’s massive,” Moute a Bidias said. “You ask yourself, ‘How did they build this? How many men did it take?’ It’s just amazing.”
Moute a Bidias was also wowed by China’s tremendous love for basketball.
“Every single play, every strong layup, every dunk, people were excited,” he said. “Everywhere we went, we just got love. It was something I was really amazed to see.”
He hopes the trip is an opportunity some of his teammates will have in the future.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Not just on the basketball side of it, but on and off the court it was totally amazing,” Moute a Bidias said. “We went from being people who said, “Oh yeah, I want to go against these guys!” to being teammates and now friends.”