In July I returned from my fourth visit to Taiwan. The trip lasted fourteen days and I was accompanied once again by Coach Dave Taylor. During this trip we ran three camps. One for high schoolers, one for college all-stars, and one for some of the best junior high players in the country. Here are some lessons learned:
1) Building a strong national team starts at the junior high level. We watched 2 FIBA World Cup qualifying games in Taipei. Taiwan only needed to win one of these games to advance to the next round. They lost the first one to the Philippines by 22 points and lost again a few nights later to Japan by 40. The level of play and coaching was obviously lacking. 3 of the top players for Taiwan had played their college basketball in the US, and of these three, two played high school basketball in the US.
2) A majority of the best players at the All-Star camp have, or will attend high school in the US. Taiwanese players don’t get pushed as hard by their teammates as they would in the US. The talent isn’t as deep as in the US. The improvement is happening slowly by sending more of the country’s top young players to the US every year.
3) Taiwan loves basketball. Junior High national championships are broadcast on national television. The high school tournaments are played in arenas. The crowds and excitement we saw at the national team games was encouraging. Many of Nike’s biggest stars stop in Taiwan each summer. Lebron, Kobe, KD, Cousins, Carmelo and more have visited Taiwan’s adoring fans.
4) Parents will sacrifice for their kids to have a better opportunity. Sending an incoming high school freshman to the complete opposite side of Earth is not easy. I am a new father and can’t imagine sending my daughter across an ocean at the age of 15. But the Taiwanese parents I work with know the potential benefits that will come from this: learning English, a new culture and the chance to play college basketball in the US. They are spending the money and taking the chance so their kids can have a better opportunity to reach their dreams.
5) Per every trip to Taiwan, we were treated exceptionally well. The culture of this nation is so warm. We made new friends and saw old ones. Each night we ate local cuisine and shared stories. I am excited to see the young players from Taiwan excel in the US system both at the high school and college level.