‘Eventful trip’ concludes with Georgia Tech-UCLA game

Two weeks ago, the Georgia Tech-UCLA season opener taking place Friday night (Saturday morning in China) looked far different than it does now.

The Yellow Jackets looked like a decent matchup for the Bruins, who won 31 games and reached the elite 8 last season, but lost a lot off of the roster. Tech also was a different team than the one that surprised the ACC with a 21-win season and a run to the NIT championship game, but had preseason All-ACC selections in center Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, not to mention returning sixth man Tadric Jackson.

Instead, Tech is without Jackson and Okogie. The latter dislocated his left index finger Oct. 28, and then both players were withheld by the school from regular-season competition for the time being after determining that both had broken NCAA rules regarding impermissible benefits. Neither made the historic trip to China.

You may have heard about UCLA’s issues. The Bruins are without three freshmen after they were arrested Tuesday for shoplifting at a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou, China, a story that has become a point of conversation nationally and taken away the focus from the Pac-12’s third annual season opener in Shanghai, much to the chagrin of the Pac-12.

And then Tech coach Josh Pastner got his turn in the broiler Tuesday night – Tuesday morning in the U.S. – when the man who provided the airfare, food and apparel to Okogie and Jackson revealed himself in a CBS Sports article and made allegations of NCAA rules violations against Pastner.

“It’s been a very eventful trip,” guard Justin Moore said. “But overall, it’s been great. We came on this trip to win. This is a basketball trip, but also a trip to experience someplace most of us have never have been and just soak all this up.”

A somewhat ironic aspect of how the shoplifting saga, and to a lesser extent, the CBS Sports article on Pastner, have blown up is that it doesn’t seem to have affected the Jackets, spending the week 7,700 miles from home in a country that doesn’t demonstrate much interest in NCAA rules violations or American college sports in general.

In a city of almost 25 million people, the game failed to draw 7,500 people in its first two iterations. Tech-UCLA will be played Friday night (Saturday morning in Shanghai) in Baoshan Arena, which seats about 6,000.

In China, practically players’ sole companions have been each other, and their time has largely been spent bartering for counterfeit luxury goods, practicing and enjoying the sights of Shanghai.

“A good experience and a wonderful opportunity for me and my teammates to be here in China to play our opening game,” Alvarado said.

Moore said Pastner brought up the CBS Sports story in a video session, and that seems to be about it.

“He just said that everything was OK and he’s doing his job, and everything will be all right,” Moore said.

Only the game can answer for sure, but the emotional impact of the police questioning of Jose Alvarado, Jon Brown and Moore in correlation with the UCLA arrests seems to be negligible. Alvarado and Moore are two of the more social players on the team, and it doesn’t appear that Tuesday’s events have weighed them down.

The game may have taken on different meaning for most, but not necessarily for the Jackets. They’re without two of their top three players, have been away from home for more than a week and been through a strange week, but they’re just ready to get going.

“It’s like, (Saturday) we finally play to open our season,” Alvarado said Friday evening (Shanghai time). “It’s like, Wow, it’s here now.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Taking a second look at Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech
Taking a second look at Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech
A secondary review of Georgia Tech’s 76-56 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday. The “Five observations” story can be found here. The rather unlikely reality of Georgia Tech’s slide through the ACC schedule is that the Yellow Jackets are actually playing a little better offensively than they did a year ago. By a number of statistics...
5 observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Virginia Tech
5 observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech tasted defeat for the ninth time in the past 10 games, this time to Virginia Tech by a 76-56 score at McCamish Pavilion Saturday. After a hot start, the Yellow Jackets were overtaken and subdued by the Hokies, who led by as many as 35 points before relenting. Georgia Tech (11-16 overall, 4-10 ACC) is now assured of a losing record at the...
Josh Okogie playing at All-ACC level
Josh Okogie playing at All-ACC level

Georgia Tech doesn’t have much to celebrate at this point of the season, but what guard Josh Okogie is doing this season hasn’t been done in several years. Entering the Yellow Jackets’ game against Virginia Tech on Saturday at McCamish Pavilion, Okogie is averaging 19.1 points per game. No Tech player has finished a season with a...
A second look at Georgia Tech’s loss to Wake Forest
A second look at Georgia Tech’s loss to Wake Forest
A closer inspection of how Georgia Tech lost to Wake Forest Wednesday night. For the “5 observations” story, please read here. 1. With just under seven minutes to play in the first half of Georgia Tech’s 79-62 loss to Wake Forest Wednesday night, the Yellow Jackets had the ball with the chance to take the lead and maybe build...
Georgia Tech’s Danny Hall returns to ‘more intense’ style
Georgia Tech’s Danny Hall returns to ‘more intense’ style

Georgia Tech shortstop Austin Wilhite has seen one full season of coach Danny Hall, but he already knows that the 2018 version is a different model than the 2017 one. “We had one day where he told one kid to just get out of practice because he was loafing around,” Wilhite said. “It’s really been more prominent this year &ndash...
More Stories