It’s fairly audacious, really, that a group of schools huddled near a stretch of the ocean’s northeast coast — none of them separated by a drop of seawater — branded themselves the “Pacific-12.”
Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak, Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Jeremy Olsen have joined an effort to live up to the name.
The Pac-12 announced Friday that Krystkowiak will lead a team of Pac-12 all-stars on a 10-day outreach trip to China, in a role previously held by fired Oregon State coach Craig Robinson.
“It’s an honor to have the chance to represent the University of Utah and the Pac-12 in China this summer,” said Utah’s head coach in a statement. “This is a great educational experience for everyone involved and I can’t wait to work with this select group of outstanding student-athletes.”
The Chinese Basketball Association estimates that 300 million people play basketball in the People’s Republic. A release says the Pac-12 team will travel to at least two cities in China, playing three games against pro teams and one game against a Chinese university all-star team.
Krystkowiak has coached in a United States vs. China scenario before — but from the opposite bench. In 2005, Krystkowiak led the CBA’s Beijing Ducks when they visited Wisconsin for a pair of exhibition games. As head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, he also coached Chinese power forward Yi Jianlian. Jianlian now plays for one of the pro teams Krystkowiak’s group will face: the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
The Pac-12 team will also challenge the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks. A news release said they will participate in youth clinics and visit historical sites in Shanghai, Nantong and Shenzhen.
That the conference chose Krystkowiak may reflect his rising profile during the recent Runnin’ Utes’ revival. In three years at the helm of the program, Krystkowiak’s Utes have gone from 6-25 in Year One to 21-12 last season. Earlier this month Utah signed Krystkowiak to a new five-year, $8.3 million contract.
Krystkowiak will be joined by Loveridge, a junior small forward, Taylor, a sophomore point guard, and Olsen, a junior center.
Olsen said he was in Utah’s weight room when he found out from the coaches. He checked his schedule and signed up.
“I’ve never been [to China] but I watched the Olympics when they had them there,” he told the U.’s sports information staff Friday afternoon. “They love basketball and treated the athletes well so I’m excited to see the crowds. It will be really great to go against players like Yi Jianlian.”
Both Olsen and Taylor said it’s an added bonus that they get to play for Krystkowiak.
“It means a lot,” Taylor said. “That’s my head coach and I have a feel for who he is and the coaching style already in place.”
The tour is part of a broader, 3-year-old effort the Pac-12 has dubbed its “Globilization Initiative. In November, Washington will meet Texas in China for a nonconference game — the first time any major U.S. sports league will stage a regular season game in the world’s most populous country.
Pac-12 China tour roster
Andrew Andrews, Washington • Sophomore, guard
Bo Barnes, Arizona State • Junior, guard/forward
Malcolm Duvivier, Oregon State • Freshman, guard
Jacob Hazzard, Arizona • Sophomore, guard
Xavier Johnson, Colorado • Sophomore, forward
Nikola Jovanovic, USC • Freshman, forward
DaVonte Lacy, Washington State • Junior, guard
Jordan Loveridge, Utah • Sophomore, forward
Roger Moute a Bidias, Cal • Junior, forward
Cheikh N’diaye, Oregon State • Freshman, center
Jeremy Olsen, Utah • Junior, center
Rimmer Schuyler, Stanford • Freshman, center
Brandon Taylor, Utah • Sophomore, guard
Aug. 7-9 • Practice in San Francisco
Aug. 10 • Depart for Shanghai
Aug. 11 • Arrive in Shanghai
Aug. 13 • vs. Chinese University All-Stars in Shanghai
Aug. 14 • vs. Jiangsu Dragons or Shanghai Sharks in Nantong
Aug. 15 • Pac-12 Academic Symposium
Aug. 16 • vs. Shanghai Sharks in Shanghai
Aug. 17 • Youth clinic at the Yi Jianlian Basketball Camp
Aug. 18 • vs. Guangdong Southern Tigers in Shenzhen
Aug. 19-20 • Depart for United States