When we remember Georgetown's 2011 trip to China -- assuming we remember it at all -- the first thing that will come to mind is the ugly brawl between the Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets during a competition billed as the "China-U.S. Friendship Basketball Match." Flying chairs, screaming fans, debris on the floor -- that slugfest was, for lack of a better word, insane.
But you have to give the Hoyas credit. They could have easily seen the China trip as a failed excursion. Or, in fear for their safety, Georgetown could have decided to skip the rest of their exhibition games and leave the country early. Instead, John Thompson III's team stuck it out. They finished their trip with an 84-63 win over Taiwan this week, and Thompson believes the experience will ultimately be a positive for his team. From the Washington Post's Gene Wang:
“It was a unique experience that I’m glad we did,” Thompson said of the trip after an 83-64 victory over Taiwan at a gym next to the team hotel. “Time will tell, but I do think that we will see the benefits of this trip come January, February, March.” [...] “Overall the trip has been great from a basketball perspective as well as just from a cultural perspective, getting a chance to see this country and learn about this country. It’s something that is invaluable.”
Even more admirable were Georgetown's attempts at reconciling with the Rockets, which Hoyas officials initiated a day after the melee:
The next morning, Thompson and players Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson met privately with the Rockets coach and two players for a reconciliation discussion that Georgetown officials initiated. The meeting at Beijing Capital Airport included an exchange of an autographed basketball and Thompson inviting Chinese kids to the Hoyas summer basketball camp next year.
In many ways, Georgetown had little control over the mess that ensued in the Bayi game. (Once people start hitting you with chairs, diplomacy tends to go out the window.) But Thompson could control his team's response. Rather than losing all the cultural and political value of the trip thanks to a few hotheaded decisions, the Hoyas regrouped, played out the rest of their obligations and made the symbolic first step toward cleaning up a mess for which they were only partially responsible.
At the very least, that deserves kudos. Georgetown's China trip didn't begin on a high note, but it certainly seems to have ended on one.