BERKELEY - Cal’s women’s basketball team doesn’t seem too fazed by its impending 12-hour plane ride to Beijing, China.
The Bears have spent a lot of time in the air this past year. That’s what happens when you reach the top of the college game.
Cal departs Saturday for a 10-day tour of China as part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative. The Bears will play games against college level and pro teams as well as participate in cultural exchange and goodwill activities with their peer student-athletes.
It will be another memorable experience for what is turning out to be one of the most memorable years for any Cal athletic program ever. The Bears made a run to the Final Four in New Orleans last season and completed the best season in school history. Now, the team is being afforded a once-in-a-lifetime experience across the globe.
“It’s been a blessing,” junior guard Brittany Boyd said. “I can’t put it into any words. Being able to go to New Orleans for the Final Four experience was something we never experienced before. And then getting to go to China – I’m very happy.”
Some of the faces that make the trip to China will be different than the ones that played Louisville in the NCAA semifinals in New Orleans in April. Departing seniors Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell and Eliza Pierre are gone, but the Bears have also added four incoming freshmen and transfer Brittany Shine to the mix.
“I’m fortunate and blessed,” Jemerigbe said. “It was a great experience being in New Orleans. The atmosphere was amazing. Hopefully, we get to go back to the Final Four again. It’s going to be a great experience in China. It will be a cultural shock, but we’re looking forward to it.”
While the Bears will get valuable on-court experience, international trips are even more about what players and coaches get out of it away from the playing arena. The Bears have several sightseeing trips planned – including visits to the Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square, among others. Cal also will have time to go shopping at the Silk Market and generally immerse itself in Chinese culture.
“We’re going to do things every day,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “One of the things I’m looking forward to the most is to experience through their eyes, to see these young women step out of their comfort zone and that’s really neat. We’re going to have a lot of bonding experiences.”
The Bears will play two professional teams – one from Liaoning and one from Bayi. Both of those games will take place in Beijing. Cal’s last game will be against Shanghai Jiaotong University.
Since Cal has virtually no knowledge of its opponents, Gottlieb said it will be an opportunity for the Bears to focus on themselves rather than hunker down with scouting reports.
“For a coach like me who is very big into prep, it’s pretty disconcerting to go in not having a game plan,” Gottlieb said. “We’re trying to prepare to just be good at what we do and just kind of roll with the punches when we get there. We’re more using this to gel as a team on and off the court, to work on some things in August that we would never have an opportunity to do otherwise, and the games are really a test to see where we are and what we need to work on.”