The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team embarks on the trip of a lifetime on Thursday, as they head to China for a 10-day cultural exchange.
Head coach Adam Friesen and the Cascades will split their time between the cities of Beijing and Harbin, and are scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games against local universities. They will face China Youth University of Political Studies on May 20 in Beijing, and will take on Harbin Sport University on May 24.
The trip, organized by UFV International, will also afford the Cascades an opportunity to experience Chinese culture. While based in Beijing, they will visit the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. In Harbin, they have two day trips planned to visit local landmarks and are also slated to tour the local university campus, watch a hockey game, and attend an artistic performance.
“We’re really excited,” Friesen enthused. “We see this as an opportunity to continue to build the program and give our athletes a great experience on and off the court during their time at UFV. Trips like this allow them to see the world, gain a different perspective on life, and grow as people.”
While this is the first overseas trip for the men’s basketball team, they’re not the first UFV squad to visit China – the Cascades women’s hoopsters toured the country back in 2004.
International trips are becoming a more frequent occurrence for UFV sports teams, though. The Cascades sent wrestling head coach Raj Virdi and six student-athletes to Chandigarh, India, where UFV has a campus, in November 2017.
Friesen has been to China before, so he has an idea of what his athletes will experience in the coming weeks. In the summer of 2016, he visited Shandong Normal University, teaching basketball as a representative of UFV.
“Our players can expect to have their eyes opened and experience many new things, even when it comes to normal daily activities,” Friesen predicted. “Crossing the street can be an adventure, the type of foods they’ll have the opportunity to eat are a lot different, and it’s incredibly busy in cities with such large populations. They’ll also get to see a country that loves basketball, and people who are great hosts.”
Mark Johnson, a rising fifth-year forward with the Cascades, said he and his teammates are thrilled at the opportunity to visit China.
“I think it’ll be a fun experience,” said Johnson, who was born in Guam and as such, has more experience traveling internationally than many of his fellow Cascades. “Some of our guys haven’t been out of the country a whole lot, so it’ll be a great time for everybody. We’ll get to play a couple of basketball games, but I think the trip will be more about building chemistry as a team and about the cultural experiences.”