August 06, 2007

Representing the United States in the annual Kainan University Tournament in Taiwan, the Boston University men's basketball team put on a show for an international crowd, both on and off the court.

Before winning the tournament, the team showed off its skills by dancing to a mix of the Cha Cha Slide, Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy, and Lloyd's Get it Shawty.

"There was a talent show where each team went up and did a skit in front of about 500 students," said coach Dennis Wolff. "From our team standpoint it was a very good bonding experience."

"We had nothing for the show and only a few of us wanted to do it at first," said redshirt sophomore Tyler Morris. "But then we decided to go outside and practice it and made up this little dance skit in 10 minutes. The rest is history."

The impromptu rock-out was only a small part of the team's cultural, social and athletic voyage, which spanned five days from May 28-June 1.

The trip provided an opportunity for a Terrier squad with just two returning seniors to share the experience of a lifetime, as well as to entertain adoring international fans. The tournament included BU, the University of British Columbia, Northeastern University (China), Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the United Vietnamese National Universities.

"They know what Division I college basketball is. We were like celebrities, but it was fun," said sophomore Corey Lowe.

"It was rock-star status," Morris said. "It was absolutely ridiculous. It was out of control."

"We toured Taipei, saw the tallest building in the world -- Taipei 101 -- and visited some traditional shopping areas," Wolff said. "We got a real good sense of the cultural end of it. They even had their arts department involve us in a puppet show. That was really neat."

Other sightseeing expeditions included a tour of Wang Gong fishing village, Anping Fort (an outpost of the Dutch when they first explored the island), and hiking trails on Jade Mountain. Quite the jam-packed quintet of days, when you consider the student-athletes played four tournament games and trekked to downtown Taipei to enjoy the nightlife every so often.

But BU's journey wasn't simply about sightseeing and basketball awareness. It highlighted the innate ethnic differences that make both worlds so unique. Right down to the hoki (fish) and calamari-topped pizza.

"They gave us typical Taiwanese food for lunch and dinner," Lowe said. "Even at the Pizza Huts, they put stuff on Kainan pizza that you'd never put on pizza over here."

Lowe's preference for pizza toppings wasn't the only thing alien to the Taiwanese people because, at 6-foot-2, he was also one of the tallest people in the city.

"I was the tallest kid in the world to them, and I'm pretty average in America -- things we really just don't look at," Lowe said. "It was neat seeing how people are on the other side of the world idolize Americans as much as they do. They were amazed by anything we said or did. It was weird but it was nice."

"There's a real interest on their part to learn about anything western," Wolff said.

The trip concluded with, not only a thrilling double-overtime championship win over the University of British Columbia, but an equally exciting exchange of gifts. BU provided loads of basketball equipment and shirts to support and thank a blossoming program, while the coaches and players received the puppets they performed with, along with a copper plate from The Universities in Vietnam that now hangs in Wolff's office.

"The best part for me was playing in front of people where basketball is not the center of attention," Morris said. "I don't think they've seen the caliber of basketball that American's can produce and it was neat to share that with them."

For the uncharacteristically youthful Terrier club searching for unity in its name and with its game, the trip was perfect.

"This was a good time to do this. You've got the games and you get to see a part of the world none of us had ever seen before and most of us will never see again," Wolff said. "They wouldn't trade it for anything."

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