Men's Basketball to Visit China in Mid-August

June 17, 2015

HOUSTON - The University of Houston Men's Basketball program will visit China in mid-August to compete in four games and enjoy the culture of Anhui Province.

Under the leadership of Head Coach Kelvin Sampson in his second year with the Cougars, Houston will face the Chinese National Team and the Jiangshu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association during its near two-week stay in Anhui Province.

Map of Anhui Province, China, 2015 Summer Trip to China

Under NCAA rules, teams are allowed to take part in foreign tours during the summer once every four years. Houston will be allowed 10 team practices inside Hofheinz Pavilion starting on July 27 before leaving for China.

"This is a great opportunity for our program in many ways. Most of our guys have never left the United States, so to fly halfway around the world to enjoy another culture will be an educational experience," Sampson said.

In addition to the cultural value, Sampson also expects the experience to pay dividends for the Cougars on the court as they prepare for the 2015-16 season.

"A trip like this gives our team 10 practices before we leave, and that will be a great head start to our season when we begin our team practices in October," Sampson said. "With six returning players and six newcomers who are going to make an impact, this is a chance for our players to build chemistry and get to know one another away from basketball."

The Cougars are scheduled to leave Houston on Aug. 11. Following an approximate 14-hour flight, the Cougars will use their first two days in China to adjust to the 13-hour time difference before competing in their first game on Aug. 14 against the Chinese National Team in Hefei.

From there, the Cougars will square off against the Jiangsu Dragons in three consecutive games on Aug. 15 (in Tongling), Aug. 16 (in Anqing) and Aug. 17 (in Huangshan)

In addition to the competition, the Cougars will enjoy several cultural sites on their trip. Following the competition schedule on Aug. 18, the team will visit Yellow Mountain, an area renamed after the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) in 747 AD. Several Buddhist temples have been built there, and it has become a tourist attraction with its beautiful scenery.

The team also will visit Xi Di Hong, a village built during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). Built in the shape of an ox, the village enjoys more than 900 years of history.

Both Yellow Mountain and Xi Di Hong have been registered as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The Cougars return to Houston on Aug. 20 with the first day of class set for Aug. 24.

Tuesday, Aug. 11 Depart Houston
Wednesday, Aug. 12 Team activities & practice
Thursday, Aug. 13 Team activities & practice
Friday, Aug. 14 Game 1 vs. Chinese National Team in Hefei
7:30 p.m. (China Standard Time)
Saturday, Aug. 15 Game 2 vs. Jiangsu Dragons in Tongling
7:30 p.m. (China Standard Time)
Sunday, Aug. 16 Game 3 vs. Jiangsu Dragons in Anqing
7:30 p.m. (China Standard Time)
Monday, Aug. 17 Game 4 vs. Jiangsu Dragons in Huangshan
7:30 p.m. (China Standard Time)
Tuesday, Aug. 18 Tour of Yellow Mountain & team activities
Wednesday, Aug. 19 Tour of Xi Di Hong Village & team activities
Thursday, Aug. 20 Return to Houston
Schedule is subject to change
Please note that China Standard Time is 13 hours ahead of Central Daylight Time. When it is noon, Thursday, in Houston, it is 1 a.m., Friday in Anhui Province, China.

The Cougars return six lettermen and four starters from last year's team, which recorded 13 wins and knocked off defending national champion UConn inside Hofheinz Pavilion for the second consecutive year.

Battling injuries throughout the season, the Cougars enjoyed a late-season surge, winning four of their final five games, including the lone upset in the American Athletic Conference Championship First Round in Hartford, Conn.

Senior guard LeRon Barnes, the Cougars' lone 3-year letterwinners, returns after ranking among The American's top-10 leaders in both offensive and defensive rebounding, while senior forward Devonta Pollard enters the 2015-16 campaign as the Cougars' top returning scorer with 11.4 points per game.

Junior forward Danrad Knowles ranked third on the team in both scoring and rebounding, and senior guard L.J Rose looks for his third 100+ assist season while wearing the Scarlet and White.

Houston also welcomes the return of junior guard Ronnie Johnson and junior forward Bertrand Nkali to competition. Both players practiced with the Cougars but sat out the 2014-15 season after Johnson transferred from Purdue and Nkali missed the year with an injury.

The Cougars will be boosted by the addition of six newcomers to the team, including freshman guard Galen Robinson (Westbury Christian/Houston); sophomore guard Rob Gray, Jr. (Howard JC/Forest City, N.C.); junior guard Damyean Dotson (Oregon/Houston); junior forward Xavier Dupree (Paris JC/Houston) and junior center Kyle Meyer (Eastern Florida State College/Atlanta).

This will be the fourth team that Sampson has led on an international trip. He previously enjoyed visits to the Soviet Union, Costa Rica and the Bahamas with Washington State (1991), Oklahoma (2003) and Indiana (2007), respectively.

In addition, he led the 2004 Under-21 USA National Team to a gold medal at the Under-21 Tournament of the Americas in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and served as head coach of the U.S. Junior National Team that competed at the 1995 Junior World Games in Athens, Greece.

He was an assistant coach for the U.S. Team at the 1994 Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia and also worked with "Operation Hardwood - Hoops with the Troops" in Kuwait in August 2005. Most recently, Sampson served as an assistant coach with the Canadian National Team in 2012.

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