Utes basketball: Krystkowiak, three Utes prepare for China trip
Just over a week away from flying across an ocean, Utes center Jeremy Olsen has at least an idea of what to expect when he travels through China to compete with a special selection of Pac-12 men's basketball players.
He's been getting scouting reports from his wife, Utah volleyball player Chelsey Schofield, after she visited the Far East earlier this summer with a Pac-12 squad as well.
"She had a really good experience, got to know the girls around the Pac-12 a little better and said the Great Wall was amazing," he said. "It should be fun to go out there and compete, and hopefully do some of the side things, too."
The Utes will be well represented in China, as Olsen, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor will travel with coach Larry Krystkowiak and the rest of the Utah coaching staff for at least three games with the Pac-12's All-Star Team.
It's a competition, Krystkowiak said, sure. But more importantly for the Utah contingent, it represents a chance to play and coach together, gaining valuable experience, while enjoying a trip that most of them have only dreamed about to this point.
"It's a great opportunity whenever you can use the sport to see parts of the world," Krystkowiak said. "I never dreamed that you'd be using a passport and a visa, traveling around because of the great game. It's a chance for the players to create some friendships and some good bonds."
Krystkowiak was tapped to coach the team after original selection Craig Robinson was fired from Oregon State. Normally it might've been a tough prospect to squeeze into Utah's summer schedule, but the Utes have had an offbeat summer already with renovations to the Huntsman Center limiting their camp sessions.
When an opportunity arose to lead the team and bring a few more Utes with him, Krystkowiak reasoned it would be a good step for the program. Even getting his assistants together in the summer can be hard, he said, so coaching a few games in China will help them warm into the season.
Loveridge, who was already going on the trip before Krystkowiak was tapped, said he learned he'd be going with his coaches on TV before anyone on staff told him. It was a bit of a relief.
"You're not going into something blind, coaching-wise, and you can help other guys adjust," he said. "And even with having some teammates you know on the court, that helps take some pressure off, too."
The trip is scheduled to start in San Francisco for training before the team flies to Shanghai on Aug. 10. The group is slated to play several pro teams, which should include the Guangdong Southern Tigers, the Shanghai Sharks, and the Jiangsu Dragons. The Pac-12 All-Stars will also play an all-star Chinese university team, and participate in camps run by Yi Jianlian, who played for Krystkowiak when he coached the Milwaukee Bucks.
The roster reflects many different experience levels, but some of the more seasoned players include Washington State's DaVonte Lacy and Colorado's Xavier Johnson. Krystkowiak mentioned Lacy and Johnson as two players who might be leaned on for production. The team's plays are likely to be fairly elementary to accommodate the short time they'll have to prepare, so the coaching staff will be looking to emphasize defense and energy.
Perhaps most importantly, the team will try to act as ambassadors, Krystkowiak said. Avoiding incidents Georgetown's team was involved in a brawl in China in 2011 will be key, even if other teams are perhaps overly physical.
"You got to be ready for the other team's best punch, and sometimes it's literal," he said. "There's gonna be some contact, and we've got to be able to keep focusing on what we're doing."
Pac-12 China tour roster
Andrew Andrews, Washington •Â Sophomore, guard
Bo Barnes, Arizona State •Â Junior, guard/forward
Malcolm Duvivier, Oregon State •Â Freshman, guard
Jacob Hazzard, Arizona •Â Sophomore, guard
Xavier Johnson, Colorado •Â Sophomore, forward
Nikola Jovanovic, USC •Â Freshman, forward
DaVonte Lacy, Washington State •Â Junior, guard
Jordan Loveridge, Utah •Â Sophomore, forward
Roger Moute a Bidias, Cal •Â Junior, forward
Cheikh N'diaye, Oregon State •Â Freshman, center
Jeremy Olsen, Utah •Â Junior, center
Rimmer Schuyler, Stanford •Â Freshman, center
Brandon Taylor, Utah •Â Sophomore, guard
Pac-12 China itinerary
Aug. 7-9 •Â Practice in San Francisco
Aug. 10 •Â Depart for Shanghai
Aug. 11 •Â Arrive in Shanghai
Aug. 13 •Â vs. Chinese University All-Stars in Shanghai
Aug. 14 •Â vs. Jiangsu Dragons or Shanghai Sharks in Nantong
Aug. 15 •Â Pac-12 Academic Symposium
Aug. 16 •Â vs. Shanghai Sharks in Shanghai
Aug. 17 •Â Youth clinic at the Yi Jianlian Basketball Camp
Aug. 18 •Â vs. Guangdong Southern Tigers in Shenzhen
Aug. 19-20 •Â Depart for United States