While most Colorado students spend their final weeks of summer worrying about housing and class schedules, two CU basketball players, junior guard/forward Xavier Johnson and sophomore guard/forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher, played overseas against teams in China and Lithuania. Johnson and Fletcher bulked up their resumes with professional international experience they’ll be able to apply to the approaching season.
Johnson was named to a Pac-12 conference team that was led by Utah head coach Larry Krystowiak and traveled to China on a three-game tour in August. Johnson and the Pac-12 all-stars faced off against the Chinese University team for the first game. After only three days of practice with his conference cohorts, Johnson said that the Americans had a hard time clicking in the first half.
“Everybody needs to warm up,” Johnson said. “We just went out there and we had to test the water, seeing how each other plays, seeing what we do and what we don’t do. That was like a little test run the first half of the game, but we were able to come out, play hard and learn their system.”
In the second half, the Pac-12 boys managed to get their act together and run away with a solid 73-47 victory. After shutting down China’s elite college team, they moved on to allegedly stiffer competition, with games against two professional Chinese Basketball Association teams.
First up was the Jiangsu Dragons. In what should have been a tougher matchup, the team asserted their basketball dominance over their opponent by stealing a victory, 85-63. To complete their tour they challenged the Shanghai Sharks, managed by former NBA powerhouse Yao Ming, and escaped with a narrow 71-68 victory.
“Seeing that that’s the best they got, and then me going out there doing what I do, it gives me more confidence to go out on the court and try new things, and help my teammates to win,” Johnson said. “That shows that the United States is still far more advanced than China [in basketball].”
While Johnson was in China, Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Colorado assistant coach Mike Rohn took their talents to the Athletes in Action program in Lithuania.
“It was great,” Rohn said. “We had a great group of guys, a really talented group. It was good for me to go over there with them and coach a little bit, make some of the decisions and have to live with some of the decisions that I made.”
The trip offered Rohn’s first head coaching experience at the NCAA DI level, though he had head coaching experience with a junior college team in Dodge City, Kan. on his resume prior to joining the Buffs coaching staff. His team was highlighted by Fletcher and nine other players from six different conferences.
Rohn said that this experience reminded him of the triumphs and trials associated with the head coaching position.
“It just made me go back and realize being a head coach is a lot harder than being an assistant coach,” Rohn said. “I learned more in my three years as a head coach than I’ve learned in any year as an assistant, because the decisions, they end with you. Whether they’re good or bad, as an assistant coach they’re usually just a suggestion. From that standpoint, it just made me appreciate again how hard it is to be a head coach. But that’s what we all aspire to be at some point, maybe.”
Fletcher, on the other hand, used the Athletes in Action as a way to help him bounce back from the knee injury that cost him 13 games during his freshman year as a Buffalo.
“I met some new friends over there, I got to see some overseas basketball, how they do things, how they play over there,” Fletcher said. “I was proud of it, because I wanted to give my knee a run and see how it felt playing full contact and full speed again. It felt good. It was a good trial run and I think I’m ready for the season now.”
During their four-game tenure in Eastern Europe, Rohn led the AIA team to a 3-1 record with wins over Klaipeda Nafta (80-76), Latvia University (99-93) and the BK Barons Kvartāls (108-99). Their only loss occurred against the Qatar National Team in their second game on a buzzer beater, 67-66.
Fletcher’s biggest take-away from his overseas experience was “just to always play hard, because you never know when your last game is. But it felt good just being able to see what level you have to play at overseas if you ever want to.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at email@example.com.