Courtesy of Vicky Chun

Cheered on by over 4,000 Chinese fans at Shanghai’s Baoshan Sports Center, Yale triumphed over the University of California, Berkeley 76 – 59 on Saturday.

But besides training for the big win over Cal, the basketball team also toured the Alibaba headquarters, enjoyed a riverbend cruise and ate local cuisine during its one-week trip across China, which included stops in Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Before the trip, basketball players participated in language and culture classes as well as weekly workshops where they learned about Chinese history and practiced basic Chinese phrases. For Director of Athletics Vicky Chun, who was appointed to her position last spring, the team’s trip to China was a realization of her vision to emphasize the dual nature of the student-athlete experience at Yale.

“It has always been my vision [to show] that athletic success can be achieved with the same excellence as Yale’s academic reputation,” Chun told the News. “Part of the trip was about showcasing what Yale’s student-athletes are like. They compete at the highest level of university athletics while learning at a world-class institution.”

According to Associate Athletic Director Jessica Chrabaszcz, the trip was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for all who attended. When they were not on the court, the student-athletes visited important historical sites to fully immerse themselves in Chinese culture.

In an interview with the News, Chun emphasized the educational aspect of the trip. Before the team took off for China, basketball players sat through four classes and workshops about China’s economy and history.

In China, the team toured the global headquarters of Alibaba — a retail conglomerate founded by Joe Tsai ’86 LAW ’90. According to Chun, Tsai, a former student-athlete on Yale’s men’s lacrosse team, welcomed the team with open arms. Tsai brought the team sightseeing and gave a two-hour lecture on the Chinese economy, U.S.-China relations and Alibaba’s business model.

“Tsai’s lecture made us so proud because the [basketball players] were answering all his questions and asking many more,” Chun said. “It showed everyone what Yale is really about. It’s not just about basketball.”

Several administrators, including Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle and Deputy Athletics Director Ann-Marie Guglieri also accompanied the team on the trip.

Chun told the News that the trip provided a unique experiential learning experience for the student-athletes, while showcasing what the Yale student-athlete experience has to offer.

“Another benefit of this trip [was] to increase Yale’s visibility in the world’s largest country, demonstrating our excellence in both academics and athletics and highlighting how the student-athlete model is central to a holistic education,” Chun said.

Besides cheering on the Bulldogs, Chun gave a lecture on neuroscience and artificial intelligence at the Yale Center Beijing, which accrued over 120,000 viewers on livestream. Chun also told the News that he connected with several alumni and other Yale affiliates during the trip.

On Nov. 9, Yale opened its season against Berkeley in this year’s Pac-12 China Game. The game was presented by the Alibaba Group and hosted in conjunction with the Federation of University Sports of China.

This year’s event marked the fourth year the Pac-12 opener has been hosted in China. The game is the keystone of the Pac-12 Global initiative, which “harnesses the passion and spirit of collegiate athletics … around the world,” according to the initiative’s website.

The men’s basketball team was the first of Yale’s athletic teams to travel abroad this season. The men’s hockey team will travel to Ireland over Thanksgiving break.

Lorenzo Arvanitis | lorenzo.arvanitis@yale.edu