#TGW: Amazing Sights and Sounds

Nov. 10, 2017

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

Ben Lammers may one day be a star of international import depending upon how his basketball career unfolds or how his future in mechanical engineering plays out, and Georgia Tech’s big fella got a taste of the stage in China.

When the Yellow Jackets’ senior center and head coach Josh Pastner conducted a press conference a couple days ago in conjunction with UCLA coach Steve Alford and one of his players, Lammers was asked about his summer project which was all about looking for ways to detect weaknesses in bridges.

This had little to do with Tech’s Friday night game in Shanghai against UCLA, the season opener for both teams, and everything to do with cultural experience. Folks appeared to be fascinated by the 6-foot-10 Lammers’ story.

“I just went to Disneyworld and we did a press conference, and someone asked me about the engineering project,” Lammers said by phone Thursday night. “It was interesting … some analogies carried over.”

Much about Tech’s eight-day trip to China has been interesting, and after spending the bulk of the first three days in Hangzhou and then taking a bullet train back to Shanghai, the sights and sounds have been amazing.

GAMEDAY in Shanghai!

Tip-off vs UCLA tonight at 11:30pm ET on @espn. #GT2China #TogetherWeSwarm pic.twitter.com/FcO7phgNCK

— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) November 10, 2017

“If you’re ever been to New York, it’s like a bigger New York. There are unique designs on buildings,” freshman Moses Wright said of Shanghai. “I’m eating a little bit of everything. I like Dragon fruit … it’s kind of like Seaweed; I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Believe it or not, Shanghai probably is bigger than New York City depending on how one defines population. There are more than 24 million people living within city limits, and the Tech party has said that traffic there is as bad or worse than it is in Atlanta.

And, oh, by the way, Dragon fruit is derived from a cactus, sometimes known as strawberry pear.

Much as Tech players and coaches have been surprised by new culinary options, Chinese folks have been taken aback by the Jackets.

Players said that almost everywhere they go, people are pulling out their cell phones and asking to take pictures.

“It’s like everybody wants to take a picture of you because they’re not used to seeing tall people,” Wright said. “They’re friendly, but you’re not going to run into many people who speak English.”

Third-year sophomore post man Sylvester Ogbonda said, “Compared to Americans, where everybody kind of minds their own business, here they want to be involved with you and take pictures. Sometimes, they’re almost too friendly.”

Time to 🔒 in. pic.twitter.com/3olSewa02y

— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) November 10, 2017

The Jackets flew more than 16 hours and 7,671 miles last weekend to get to Shanghai, taking a route due north from Atlanta, through Detroit, and skirting the North Pole.

Tech president Bud Peterson is on the trip, and the Jackets are spreading the school brand abroad.

They’re taking in information as well.

On their second day in Hangzhou, the Jackets met Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, one of the biggest on-line commerce businesses in the world. Tsai, a multi-billionaire who recently bought the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, spoke about the creation of Alibaba and the use of technology in its construction.

Then, he posed with photos with many players and coaches.

It’s been a bit of sensory overload at times, as the Jackets have mixed practices, workouts and study halls in with a lot of cultural activities.

“I mean, first of all it’s the people, the food, the culture, just the experience,” said Ogbonda. “It’s pretty big, a lot of color and it’s pretty amazing. I would compare it to Las Vegas a little, and every time I have a chance to have Chinese food, I try a little.”

Not all the Jackets are experimenting with food. Most meals have been taken in the team hotel, which they all say is spectacular.

“They’ve been pretty controlling about our diet; they’re worried about us getting food poisoning,” Lammers said. “They don’t want us eating street food.”

Tech’s entire party enjoyed a cruise on the Huangpu River late in the week, where the vistas were impressive, and Ogbonda had the unique pleased one morning of eating breakfast with assistant coach Eric Reveno and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton, a former UCLA star who will call the game Friday night (Atlanta time).

Tech is familiar with the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, where the game will be played. They’ve practiced there, and several players participated in a youth clinic in the gym as well.

It’s been a long trip, and the Jackets are getting eager to be back where back where everything will be familiar. They’ll be in Atlanta Sunday evening.

“I’m looking forward to coming home,” Wright said. “It’s been a great experience. It’s so far from my comfort zone.”

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