Calipari Recruiting New Territory: China

NEW YORK – While virtually every other college basketball coach is back on campus regrouping from the brutal July recruiting period, Kentucky coach John Calipari is in China paving ground for the future.

“Just watched team China down the United Arab Emirates team, 82-59, in a FIBA-Asia contest. Team China looked great and is so well-coached,” Calipari Tweeted Monday morning.

The ‘Cats new head coach and Del Harris are in the Far East from Aug. 8-14 as part of a partnership Calipari helped develop between Kentucky and the China Basketball Association after reading an article by Bill Rhoden in The New York Times that spurred his interest.

The China Basketball Association had a relationship with Memphis officials prior to the time Calipari became head coach of the Tigers.

“When I read it, I said, ‘I’m going to be in China. I’m going to get in China,” Calipari said in a recent interview at St. John’s.

“[But] you can’t just say, ‘I’m going to China.’ You’ve got to get a Visa. You’ve got to be invited over.”

As part of the program, Kentucky brings over 15 coaches from China and tutors them for eight days. In return, Calipari does clinics in China for coaches. He Tweeted that he just gave one on the dribble-drive motion offense to over 100 Chinese coaches.

“And eventually they will trust us enough to have players come to the United States and train and then go back to China,” the coach said.

There are currently just two Chinese players in the NBA, but Calipari believes the players he trains can one day end up in the NBDL or other pro leagues.

He also thinks the program will benefit students at Kentucky as well.

“For the University of Kentucky to get Chinese students, which we’re working on, now all of the students at Kentucky have Chinese partners,” Calipari said. “You don’t do anything in China without a Chinese partner, nothing. It’s not like going to England.

“Now they’re here and they’re on our campus and you befriend one of these students and they befriend you and now all of a sudden you’re in the business world and you’re trying to crack China, you’ve got a partner.

“I’d love to see us have 400 or 500 Chinese students on our campus. And our university is already working on it.”

Asked to comment on Calipari’s partnership, An Hongquan, Counsellor for the Chinese mission to the United Nations, wrote in an email:

“My personal view is it is a very good thing to have more cultural and sport exchanges between U.S. and China and basketball is one of the best areas to strengthen our relations. Basketball is very popular in China, especially in the young groups.  A lot of them are American basketball fans and familiar with almost all American sports stars like Kobe Bryant.  Last year, during the Beijing Olympics former President Bush went to the basketball game between the U.S. and China. We paid high attention on that. WE called this basketball diplomacy. The Chinese and American sides had a very good conversation during the game. It left a deep impression on us.

“I think it is a good idea to have more communication between us. The U.S. is No. 1 in terms of your professional skills and athletes. We can learn a lot from you. China is happy to invite more coaches  to China and send more athletes like Yao Ming to come to the States to play the games.”

**For more of the Calipari interview about his own team, click here.

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