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Should UK Recruit a Chinese Player?

This piece was written originally on by Jonathan Schuette. It is an interesting argument about a potential new revenue source for UK.

College athletics is quickly becoming an arms race (not that it wasn’t one already). It’s common place for fans to argue with rival fans about who has the best stadium, weight room, indoor practice facility, or even biggest Jumbotron (people who argue about this cheer for teams that usually suck). Nonetheless it is an important recruiting pitch for coaching staffs at all levels of competition to boast about to potential recruits, after all who wants to spend their college years playing and practicing in a run down dump? Of course it takes money to build these nice things and evidently it is something that the Kentucky athletic department is lacking at the current juncture. We need to renovate Commonwealth Stadium, renovate/replace Cliff Hagan, and make Rupp a more modern arena (that’s more the city of Lexington’s problem, though). Given the University’s current problem of not being able to initiate bonding projects of their own it makes it rather difficult to build/complete such ambitious projects. This is where our athletic department needs to become more creative in finding new and untapped revenue streams to fund these projects. One solution to this problem could be the in one of the world’s rising economic powers, China.


Basketball is booming in China, according to USA Today an estimated 600,000 new courts are being built to meet the demand of the people. Basketball is becoming so popular that it has evidently surpassed ping-pong as the most popular sport (yes, ping-pong). What sparked the Chinese interest all of the sudden? Of course it’s Yao Ming (that was just my weak attempt to build suspense). In fact, Ming is so popular in China that his former teammates on the Houston Rockets were all given shoe deals by a Chinese apparel company. But it’s not just Ming who is popular in China. While touring China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kevin Johnson of USA TODAY, traveled around the country to numerous playgrounds and found that it wasn’t exclusively Yao Ming jerseys being worn; many people were wearing jerseys of various NBA superstars like Nowitzki, Iverson, Anthony, and Bryant. As surprising this was to me when doing my research I found later that this shouldn’t be such a shock. Basketball’s popularity in China has been steadily growing since China Central Television (CCTV) picked up he rights to broadcast the NBA in the early 1990’s. Of course this begs the question; what does this have to do with Kentucky, a university 7,000 miles away?


It’s no secret that Kentucky has been fielding some pretty strong basketball teams as of late and are led by a polarizing figure in John Calipari who is no stranger to China himself. In 2009 Coach Cal was invited to China to give a clinic to around 100 Chinese coaches. During the clinic he even gave advice on how to run the famed “Dribble Drive Motion Offense.” As a part of the clinic a select few Chinese coaches were granted the privilege of coming to America and receive private tutoring from Cal himself. Again, how does this benefit the University of Kentucky financially? It’s pretty simple really, one way the University makes money off of athletics is merchandise sales, and an elite player from China on Kentucky’s roster would sell hundreds of thousands of jerseys, bringing in a sizable amount of money to fund these renovations. But just how are the Chinese people going to see their future NBA star play when he is not on CCTV? This is where the SEC and a major broadcasting network come in.


Football is king in America and looks to remain top dog for the foreseeable future. If you have been paying attention to the Collegiate sporting landscape the past few years you’d know that many Universities are changing conference allegiances for more TV money, and this money comes almost exclusively from football revenue. Since Kentucky isn’t exactly known for it’s football prowess we could be of great benefit to the SEC in generating basketball revenue from China. The Chinese aren’t what you would call passionate football fans but given basketball’s popularity boom there is some serious money to be made here. If the SEC were to work with ESPN and CCTV in broadcasting SEC basketball games a massive TV contract could be worked out bringing in potentially tens of millions of dollars to all of the respective league teams. This would be the main source of revenue in the new Chinese deal, allowing for Kentucky to finally complete all the projects that need to be completed to compete for SEC and national supremacy.


These ideas may seem far fetched, but they are currently coming to fruition in another conference. At the moment the Pac 12 is in the midst of a 3 billion dollar TV deal with ESPN and Fox for broadcasting rights to their games. This deal also includes eventual plans to show their games on European and Asian TV Networks. So this is something that Mike Slive and the SEC Commissioners need to jump into sooner rather than later to prevent the Pac 12 from taking the market. There is a potential goldmine in SEC basketball, while America may not care for basketball like they do football there are one billion sets of Chinese eyes that are enamored with it and willing to pay top dollar for it.


Follow me on Twitter @SchuetteKSR



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23 Comments for Should UK Recruit a Chinese Player?

  1. The People of China
    3:48 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Go Big BRUE!

  2. Kung Fu Pouww
    3:50 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Ahhh Soooo stwing music…….

  3. freethrow
    3:51 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I would love to see a highly skilled Chinese player on the team. I am all for expanding the UK brand in every direction. Doing so may lead to other top recruits in the world playing for UK in the future. Hopefully there will be enough solid investigation into any possible recruit so that we do not fall into a trap as we did with Kanter and once given an OK by the NCAA they can’t take it back.

  4. fghfgh
    3:54 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    No. No. No. For all the China-envy put out there by living brain-donors like Thomas Friedman, China is still a thuggish authoritarian country that produces such heartwarming stories as this one: .

    Never never never.

  5. jus sayin
    3:56 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    If he can play… I not for recruiting them just for the novelty of having one.

    3:58 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    FA RA RA RA FA RA RA RA!!!!!

  7. GGreen
    3:59 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    “Lin-Tucky” Cal is a friggin genius. This game is too large to limit just to this area.

  8. Justin
    4:01 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    kinda racist.

  9. Experienced
    4:11 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I certainly remember Cal saying there was about 1000 really good 7 foot Chinese point guards over in China. Bring one on over, Cal! We could use an HIV free Magic Johnson to attend UK 😉 All respect to Magic of course.

  10. Flippy23
    4:13 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Setting aside all the tasteless racist stuff, this would be a tremendous marketing coup for the Big Blue……and would give Pete Thamel another exotic location to visit once we sign someone good !!!

  11. Mike
    4:16 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    If we do recruit more foreigners, then we better make sure they are fully aware of NCAA rule against accepting improper benefits. That’s what I’m always afraid of when recruiting someone from another country. Not saying that they would intentionally violate rules, but they may not be aware of ramifications for certain actions.

  12. Squirrelfish33
    4:24 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    But the question is…if Basketball is so big over there, why would a top recruit choose to play a year of college basketball instead of in the Chinese league where they could make a bunch of money before heading to the draft….maybe WWW could help us out? lol

  13. Ridge Runner
    4:29 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care if the kid is from China or a remote island in the pacific…if Cal thinks he has talent and is the best available, for a need we have —–GET HIM!

  14. sdfd
    4:48 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Wouldn’t having a Chinese player with millions of fans back home violate the NCAA rules against having fun? Or the rule against being cool?

  15. Bicycle Seat Sniffer
    4:54 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    There’s no reason to recruit a Chinese player for generating revenue purposes. No fan base supports their team and buys merchandise like BBN. If there is a Chinese player that is good enough and can qualify, I’m all for bringing him over. But I highly doubt there is a 17-19 year old Chinese player who would consider playing at Kentucky when he is probably good enough to just enter the NBA Draft instead.

  16. Bicycle Seat Sniffer
    5:03 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    In addition (to 15), I see it very unlikely that any Chinese recruit could make such a quick splash while playing at UK that CCTV and the Chinese television watchers would grasp on and follow his playing career like they did Yao Ming’s NBA one. The college game would not have the same appeal/flair to the Chinese people that the NBA’s superstar league does.

  17. louisvillelaw22
    5:09 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I disagree; the NCAA is only marginal in China because there is no basis for relation. For example, when Jeremy Lin was at Harvard, the only televised games he played in were highly rated.

    The big problem with recruiting a Chinese player (who grew up playing in China) is that China is very lax about documenting the age and academic progressions of young people they assume will be olympians for their country. Does anyone remember the rumors about Yi Jianlian and Yao Ming both being far older than China represented? Not to mention the benefits issue that has already been brought up.

    But don’t be surprised to see it happen. China and Taiwan have both cranked out players who were capable of playing at the high D-1 level who flirted with the idea; Chen Jianghua and Sean Chen are good examples. I would bet that if a Chinese player were to want to come to Kentucky, he would be a point guard who wanted to refine his game under Calipari.

  18. SamKat
    6:03 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Great to get a chinese player. Coach Cal could well take his pick.

    For TV, I wish somebody would work on getting SEC or Fox Sports South available across the USA. Wildcat fans are ubiquitouis, as we all know.

  19. Not trying to be a "Know It All"
    6:14 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Lin is American born and his family is from Taiwan.

  20. GGreen
    7:17 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    If we can have a few Sam Malones, Brian Longs, and Polsons on the team, then surely getting a Chinese player on the roster who’s got upside talent wont hurt. I like the idea. Cal knows talent. Trust his vision and don’t worry about where the kids come from.

  21. Mudcreekmark
    7:23 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Why would this subject even be brought up? Why wouldn’t we want to recruit anyone from anywhere? If they are good enough to play at UK then bring them on. If they cannot help our team, then no don’t recruit him.Seems pretty simple to me.

  22. SeoulCat
    7:25 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    You’re kidding yourself if you think people in Asia give a damn about college basketball. They don’t. There would not be any jerseys sold or people watching the broadcasts of Kentucky basketball over here if a Chinese player joined the team. Fanaticism with college sports is something unique to North America, just like in Japan–and only in Japan–high school baseball is HUGE. Plenty of Americans love baseball, but do you think if the top American high school baseball player went on to play for a top Japanese high school Americans would tune in and/or care? That’s my point.

  23. 502Cat
    12:36 pm May 18, 2012 Permalink

    The NCAA would never let this happen.