"Glory!! Coach tom gets on the court again..."...

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January 26, 2008...Sunday evening, Beijing...

At last! I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak and get on the court again at Coach Wang Fei's Basketball Academy outside Beijing...What a pure joy this experience was, and those parents whose sons and daughters have trained with me over the last several years "know" how much I enjoy teaching and watching players practice new skills they are being taught for the first time...

The Wang Fei Basketball Academy is part of a private middle and high school institution...It has over 1,000 boys and girls enrolled in the school for academics, and Coach Fei's program is an "add on" extracurricular program offered at the school...He only has boys, ages 11-17, all with varied skill levels, some advanced, some not so advanced, but ALL eager and willing to be taught...Coach Wang Fei bridged a relationship this past summer in Hawaii when I was accepting the invitation by SunJun, GM of the Jilin NE Tigers CBA team...Little did I realize then, how close Wang Fei was to SunJun, having played with him on numerous National Teams as well as on the well known Bayi Red Army Team, the Boston Celtics of old CBA team...Wang Fei shared with me during our dinner after the afternoon session today, about how SunJun approached him and asked him as friend and mentor what he thought about me as an "NBA Coach coming to the CBA for his team...?"...Wang Fei said that he had known my father, Coach Pete Newell for many many years and that he was watching how I interacted with the All Star Americans in the CBA Draft Camp in Hawaii during the week, and said the players respected me and listened to me during timeouts and substitutions, but that my greatest strength would be in teaching his young players in Jilin...Wow, I said to myself, little did I know that he too was supporting SunJun's decision to hire me as his team's leader...Couple that with Coach Bruce O'Neil, President of the United States Basketball Academy in Springfield, Oregon, how could I go wrong! Coaches, remember this always: if you teach the game the right way, respect the players, Officials and people supporting this wonderful activity, you have a much better chance to keep "working" than not...

Back to the Academy...So, Wang Fei introduces me to 72 students in attendance for this afternoon session, and his assistant coaches (OUTSTANDING Teachers in their own right!), and beforehand, asked me to "appeal" to them about applying their efforts in school, not just on the court everyday, that they are very lazy for the most part in classroom study and application...Now he's talkin to the right "Cat" when it comes to speaking to kids in school and sports...Not missing a beat, I have these young fellas in front of me, and right away ol coach here addresses them with a "Niaho" and then proceeds to have Wang Fei translate "how many habits are there in basketball?"...The murmur rises as the seconds tick by and I pick out a young player and ask him "how many?"...He answers correctly: "two" in perfect English...Now keep in mind, these players are supposedly "studying" English in school, albeit, not very consistently, but I am encouraged that he had the self confidence to give me the answer: "Good and Bad..."...The next question led to "how many ways can you play the game..."...Now many hands raise and I am really encouraged now...I point to one older player (16-17 yrs. old) and he says through Wang Fei, "two...good and bad..." with a smile, and I say "yes, there are two ways, but not good and bad, rather Right Way and Wrong Way...", using the example of dribbling the ball with your head down (demonstrating this I might add) and ask if this is a "good habit or bad habit, using my thumbs up or down, respectively, an International sign language unto its own), they all raise their hand with "thumbs down" and that leads into the next question, "is it the Right Way or Wrong Way?...Again arms raise and "thumbs down" is unanimous...Then I say, "Excellent, NOW we have an understanding about how I will teach you today..."...Then we explore the "3 Speeds in basketball": Quick (change of direction), Fast (transition on Offense and Defense) and lastly the most important: Slow (playing under control, learning something new in a drill etc.)...Their eyes lit up, I have 'turned' on a 30w Bulb in their basketball minds...This sets up the "next" conversation about "habits in school work and applications"...90% of the kids raised their hand when I asked them point blank whether they could "do better in school and studying..."...They ALL nodded and agreed that they had bad habits when it came to having a Best Effort everyday in school, NOT ever mentioning bball in this exchange...We then proceeded to the courts where I demonstrated a one dribble with right hand, step off with the left foot shooting drill from the top of the key...which evolves into several other one dribble or two dribble (no more than that) moves to the basket...There were 6 baskets available, and we had more than enough help to successfully complete the drills for today...Let me say this: I have worked many many basketball camps over the last 38 years and this was the FIRST camp where the kids "picked" up very quickly the importance of keeping their heads up when making a 1 on 1 move towards the basket (you must READ the defense always when going 1 on 1 so you can REACT to any "help" defense and change direction with the ball (Quick speed) to finish the ATTACK...by the end of our session together, each player had successfully learned a couple of new moves and were excited to have me show them how to practice on their own with the same...even Wang Fei's assistants 'seized' the opportunity to also demonstrate to players who had difficulty coordinating the dribble with the balance and handle needed to be successful going to the basket...But more importantly, I WAS ON THE COURT AGAIN!! GLORY!!

Dinner later that evening with Wang Fei and his former teammate, Coach Lee...Wang Fei wanted me to experience Beijing Duck with him and Coach Lee, as well as other Epicurean delights, Chinese dishes I've had before but never so flavorful as these...the dishes: a spicy "bamboo" slices, sauteed and mixed with onions and mushrooms...I've had bamboo before, BUT this dish, WOW...next came a dish with "duck's feet", a delicacy served cold and prepared with Wasabe' hot mustard...I didn't want to disrespectful and not try it, so I did...not bad, not bad at all...good thing I had something to "wash" it down with...and that was puree Corn juice, heated to a boiling level and served in a tall glass...First time I'd ever tasted such and let me tell you, it had NO ADDITIVES such as sugar or molasses, just the fresh puree kernels, heated...Y'all gotta try that one, especially the kids, beats the heck out of a carbonated drink, that's for sure...next came a plate of large shrimp, with under-shell covered bread crumbs...how good was that? Of the 2 dozen, I had at least a dozen as Coach Fei and Coach Lee were into the duck's feet and bamboo root...next we had string green beans, with onions, small red peppers and mushrooms...are you getting hungry yet? Next was a saute' pan served at our table with Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Onions, Chicken pieces (no bones), green sting beans, and curry sauce...SOMEBODY please tell me how I've missed out "this" dish all the time I've been here!! Now that dish was "attacked" by 3 pairs of Chopstiks and surprisingly I "held my own" in the grab...If I can say there two "things" that I've improved remarkably on it would be as follows: How to cross the street safely, with a "bobble head" motion keeping me safe...next is my adept left handed chopstik mechanics...You wouldn't believe how many of the players and others who I have had the distinct pleasure of sharing a traditional meal with when I choose NOT to use the Western Utensils put in front of me...Most are dumbstruck by my being lefthanded and "doin my thing" with such precision...no, I don't "need" to catch flys or other flying objects to prove my skill, just know this: plastic chopstiks are no longer a "fear factor" when eating out in public in China...Back to the entree's...Next comes one of the Chefs wheeling a waist-high cart, and a roasted Peking Duck on top (this duck was through "peeking" at anything)...Wang Fei has him wheel his "duck cart" around so I can watch his skills carving a just-cooked Duck...Let me tell you, not only was this Chop Knife (the same used for veggies) SHARP, the Chef was "sharper"...I was so mesmerized by his skill, Wang Fei started laughing because my eyes were transfixed on how quickly he shaved to the bone the meat from the Duck...I mean this took all of maybe 4 and half minutes and there were two plates of meat well stacked and ready for "roll" shell that comes with this dish...How good was this? Wang Fei and Coach Lee laughed out loud when I took my first bite and under my breath I was sighing "ummmmmmm"...Keep in mind, I've had the Beijing Duck, back in early December in Beijing with our two American players and the GM...That was my first time and there also did I release an "ummmmmmm" and draw laughter from the table...But this "ummmmmm" was a different "octave" level, as it was served right before us, still warm and ever so fresh...I asked Wang Fei if he knew any Spanish, to which he replied no, so I taught him "NO MAS!!", meaning I was "done" eating for the night, there was not another morsel that could match what I had just experienced...He laughed again and so did I...what a prince of a guy Wang Fei is...His wife was suppose to join us but she was with her ill stricken father and could not be with us...I hope I can meet her sometime...They have one daughter who attends BYU Hawaii as a Freshman...She speaks fluent English and is a Business school major...Wang Fei is not a Mormon, but his actions and social disciplines are exemplary: he doesn't smoke or drink alcohol...and tonight was the first dinner I've ever had in China where alcohol and cigarettes were not part of the "menu" for the sitdown experience...This much I know: Wang Fei and I are going to be "newest" best friends for many years to come, trust me...We talked hoops the whole time we were not on the court...He has a great mind for the game and is without a doubt the BEST teacher of skills I have seen since arriving on this continent...I am committed to HELPING him any way I can with future additions of Pro Players to his teams in the near future...We are already planning a "tryout" in Seattle, whereby I will invite 10 players to come to Seattle and spend 4 days, going through drills, interviews and evaluations by myself and Coach Ernie Woods (Hooptactics.com)...I came up with this idea after hearing his "plea" to help him "find" good character and citizens that can make his team compete for a Championship...Our kind of guy, No? Anyway, Coach Fei will also bless my weekend sessions at Eastside Catholic on one of the weekend mornings, as I asked him to "help" me, then I will "treat" him to our Northwest Seafood delights: Salmon and Rockfish with vegetables...replacing Duck's feet with Fresh Calimari and of course Rice...If you ever need a Caterer, the best one I've ever experienced is Russell and Rick Lowell from Lowell Catering in Seattle...Now THEY know how to prepare Salmon and ANY Epicurean dishes to foreigners unaccustomed to our NW delights...They do Weddings, Special Events, Banquets and Private presentations...Keep them in mind if you're thinking of doing something different for the Senior Students' Graduation in June...

The "box"...don't ask, please...I've run out of Aleve and I don't have the energy to even try to "look" again into the whereabouts...tomorrow I have to buy new accessory items that go to my computer: camera, headset, plugs, monitor plugs...arrrrrrrrrgh!!! Enuff said...I leave for Russia on Sunday via Seoul, Korea, overnight there and on to Vladivostok...Being in "warm" Beijing now (Hawaii compared to Changchun cold), I am going to a city that is COLDER than Changchun!! And here I thought my cold "daze" was done, fini, ovah, adios, sayonara, goodbye...Oh well, might have to get some "woolies" as they call them here in China...Take care, drive safely, slow down, and God Bless...much love to all, Coach tom

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