International students bring hoops passion

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Xinyi Du drives past Jie Tang on his way to scoring a layup. Du, a senior in the College of Business, plays pick-up basketball at Ping on a biweekly basis. (Logan Riely | Staff Photographer)

Far from their families, but closer to the basketball superstars they admire, many of Ohio’s Chinese students feel at home playing on the hardwood courts of Ping Recreational Center.

Xinyi Du, a senior studying in the College of Business, plays basketball as a way to ease his mind from the pressures of class. He said the high level of competition he finds on the court is what brings him to Ping at least twice a week.

Growing up in Guangzhou, China, Du was a fan of the Houston Rockets’ Tracy McGrady, a former star in the NBA who played alongside China’s most celebrated basketball icon, Yao Ming, from 2004–2010.

The NBA is seen as the most prestigious level of play in China, where the sport has been recognized as a national pastime since 1935. According to the NBA, an estimated 300 million people — a figure close to the entire population of the United States — play basketball in China.

Among many students in China, the popularity of the sport reaches its apex when they are in middle school and high school. Dongchen Song, a junior studying business management, said the way in which the game can involve anywhere from one to ten players helps make basketball a favorite with the younger crowd.

“The way that basketball can be played, with a group through teamwork, or by yourself, is what I think makes it such a popular game in China,” Song said.

Jie Tang, a sophomore also studying business, plays pick-up ball on a daily basis. Having learned to play at the age of five, he plays at Ping to hone the skills and techniques that he has learned from watching the professional game of American players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

Tang said that while there are a lot of people who play basketball in China, the sport takes on a more recreational role in Chinese culture because of its popularity.

“For Americans, if you can play basketball or football well, you can make money from it,” Tang said. “In China, the population is so large that it’s much harder to do that.”

The Chinese Basketball Association, created in 1995, exists as a way for players to play at a professional level in China.

However, the games in the CBA are not nearly as intense as those of its American counterpart. Zuopin Qin, a sophomore studying communications, said that the CBA is almost an afterthought in China because of the dominating prominence of the NBA.  

“A lot of people in China are more interested in the NBA than the CBA,” Qin said. “The NBA is the one that has the best players.”

The difference in style isn’t confined to the professional level. Tang said that the way that American students play, often focusing more on a single, powerful player making moves to the basket rather than making plays through passing and teamwork, can be disadvantageous to his Chinese peers because of size differences.

Despite that hurdle, the passion that these Ohio students have for basketball hasn’t faded. Though they spend a fair amount of their time out of class studying — between two and three hours a day — making time to watch or play the game they love is a top priority.

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