We said that Ben Howland needed to lead next year's basketball team in a new direction. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is giving him a jump start, all the way to China. Mandatory Credit: Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE
Pac-12 Comissioner Larry Scott is at it again. Calling U.C.L.A. Basketball the most recognizable brand in the Pac-12, the Bruins will head to China this August for some exhibition games. From Andy Katz's blog on ESPN:
"Basketball is the most popular sport in China," Scott said from this week's Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix. "We're working on having UCLA play the equivalent of NCAA competition in China, as well as this being a goodwill and diplomatic tour.
"UCLA will represent the Pac-12 and plant a flag for the conference. We expect this to be an annual basketball trip by our schools, playing future collegiate teams and the Chinese national team."
Credit Commissioner Scott for his forward thinking. We've come to expect the Commissioner to push the boundaries for the conference into new territories, and this time he is taking things quite literally. There is an obvious connection between the preeminent collegiate conference on our Pacific border and the Asian countries on the western Pacific Rim, and this makes great sense to blend those two in this fashion.
It is also telling that he considers U.C.L.A. the brand name of the conference. Sorry, standard.
Placing the Pac-12 brand in Asia -- and ultimately Pac-12 games -- is a priority, and what better way to show off the conference than displaying the most recognizable brand in the league, UCLA basketball.
"This is a big deal," Scott said. "This is part of our plan to get the Pac-12 Network out there. There's no better way to kick this off than with UCLA basketball."
It's also worth noting that this push of the U.C.L.A. brand is coming from the Conference Commissioner, and not from our own Athletic Director. It's easy to see who recognizes the value of our highest profile program.
From a preparation standpoint for our team, this is a great break for the Bruins. The early trip will give the Bruins an advantage of having additional practices and starting practice earlier than they would have otherwise. For a team coming off a very disappointing season, this will be a perfect opportunity to get things have turned around earlier than would have been possible. As we know, Howland just landed the top recruiting class in the country. Integrating those new players, especially Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, into the flow early will be key to having a team that is ready to play at its regular season opener, as the Bruins have struggled out of the gate over the last several years. Blending the new faces with the returning roster and what will likely need to be a new look offense will take some time, and this trip provides an opportunity to get a jump start.
Howland said his team will take full advantage of the NCAA rule that allows 10 practices prior to the trip. He said the Bruins will practice five times spread out over the first two weeks of August and five days leading up to the Aug. 21 departure. UCLA is scheduled to return Aug. 29.
A year ago, Georgetown and Duke both went to China and benefited greatly from the experience. The Hoyas even brawled with the Chinese, which was unfortunate but ended up being a bonding moment for the team.
In addition, Howland said the Asian, and more specifically the Chinese, population at UCLA and other California schools makes it even more sensible to go on the trip to foster interest in the programs.
"We're promoting our brand, basketball and the conference," Howland said.
I guess our 2012-13 previews of Bruin Basketball on Bruins Nation are going to come earlier than we thought. And I'm good with that.