Four months ago, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) basketball coach Frank Allocco re-lived his experiences in Chicago as the McDonald's All-American West head coach with a first-person written account for MaxPreps. See final "McDonald's Memories." The column was so well received, we asked the three-time state championship coach to repeat his efforts while coaching in China for a Nike High School Elite Camp that he, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) coach Tim Kennedy and Harvey Kitani, of Fairfax (Los Angeles, Calif.), were asked to lead. The following is coach Allocco's first entry.
By Frank AlloccoSHANGHAI —
Mitty coach Tim Kennedy and I arrived in Shanghai after a 14-hour flight from San Francisco. When we arrived in Shanghai we were surprised to find out that we lost a day, as it was now Sunday night, not Saturday night. Well, I guess we will find the "lost day" on the one way home when we regain a day!
We were greeted at the airport by several of the camp staff, one of whom was Sarah Hong Yao Weiler, the first Chinese female player to ever play collegiate basketball in America. Referred to as the "Big Cat," she was an impressive post player at Centenary College in Louisiana.
Before departing the airport, we had a quick meal at Subway, (no Chinese food, sorry to disappoint) and then off to the Crowne Plaza for some well needed sleep.
We had an introductory staff meeting this morning, led by Boris Yan and Cliff Liu, who along with Tony Dorado, former Moreau Catholic (Hayward, Calif.)
coach and current Head of Nike High School Basketball, are the organizers of this event. We had an in depth discussion on Chinese basketball and the format and objectives of this inaugural camp.
The 2014 Nike High School Elite Camp will serve the top 36 high school players in China. The focus of this camp is to expose the campers to United States training from respected high school coaches. The coaches
I will be working with Tim Kennedy
, the coach from Archbishop Mitty who has won two State Championships during his six year tenure at Mitty. Tim is a great guy, a former player from Loyola Marymount, who I have enjoyed watching when he was a player, and now, competing with him as a coach. Harvey Kitani
, a 34 year veteran coach from Fairfax High School, rounds out our trio of high school coaches. Harvey has been a good friend of mine for many years, a proven winner who boasts two California state championships. I am excited to be working alongside two of the finest professionals in high school coaching.
The basketball scene in China is quite unique with many different levels of play. Working our way up the ladder of basketball play, we begin with high school students who play regular, recreation basketball without a coach to guide them. This is comparable to an intramurals level of play in the United States.
The second rung of the ladder consists of high school teams with average high school players who are coached by their regular physical education teachers, not a designated coach. This level of play does not compete in interscholastic play.
The third level of basketball play consists of high school league play. There are two main leagues in China, one sponsored by Sporting Goods Company Li Ning which consists of approximately 152 teams. This is a government-endorsed league which plays mainly at the Province level.
These teams do not play many in-season games; the main focus is the preparation for the provincial playoffs which take place at the end of the season.
The second major league, sponsored by Nike, is a city based league, with 12 cities participating and about 12-16 teams representing each city. Approximately 192 teams will play a regular City League Schedule with home and away games enthusiastically supported by the students of their schools. The champions of each city will then participate in the national championships conducted at the end of the season.
The fourth level of basketball in China are the Sports Academies. These Academies primary objective is the development of skills in athletics, with education a secondary matter. These players are on the path to professional play. Players in these academies have been selected at a very young age and funding for their housing and training is provided by the Chinese governmental agencies.
The fifth level of basketball consists of the Provincial Teams. These teams are selected from the Sports Academies participants. Players on these teams are considered professional athletes and compete at a high level. The top rung of the ladder is the Chinese National Team which is selected from the participants of the Provincial Teams. Top 36
During my stay in Shanghai, my fellow coaches and I will be working with the top 36 high school players who have been chosen from the Li Ning and Nike sponsored basketball leagues. Most of these high school players will have the opportunity to continue their game at the collegiate level and perhaps earn the attention of the Provincial Teams. Attracting their interest is a daunting task, as only one player in the last 10 years from a high school league has bypassed the Sports Academies to compete at the Provincial or national level.
There is currently a changing landscape within Chinese basketball that should filter down to a greater emphasis on high school basketball in the future. Due to the improving economy and a greater interest in education in China, the once thriving Sports Academies are now having a difficult time recruiting athletes to leave their families and bypass their education to commit full-time to athletic development.
There is a bright future for basketball in China as more opportunities and increased training should lead to better performance. All of us at this camp are committed to giving these talented players a great experience as we challenge and motivate them to aspire to greater heights.
At the conclusion of our morning meeting, we were given a brief tour of the practice facilities and an overview of our challenges this week.
I am very excited to meet the players and begin our workouts tomorrow morning. The 2014 Nike High School Elite Camp will be a great opportunity to provide the students of China with a great United States basketball experience.