When Mallory Ladd was preparing to make the 275-mile move from her home in Evansville, Ind., to the Valparaiso campus for her freshman year, she was also packing for a 7,000 mile trip around world.
“Wow, it is hard to believe that a month and a half ago I was walking across the stage for my high school graduation to receive my diploma, and suddenly I am two days away from leaving the country,” said Ladd, an incoming member of the women’s basketball team and a criminology major. “Getting the chance to go to China is so amazing. Coming in as a freshman, and getting an opportunity like this is so unreal.”
Ladd and 13 teammates on the Valpo women’s basketball team – along with head coach Keith Freeman, associate head coach Greg Kirby, and assistant coaches Kelly Komara and Steve Helm – embarked on the journey to the other side on the globe on Aug. 6 – the trip beginning with a nearly 15-hour flight.
“Sleep was the best way to pass the time, so that’s what most of us did,” said senior Betsy Adams of Monticello, Ind. “When we landed in Shanghai we had to wait on a couple of bags and we all noticed our swollen feet and ankles. I guess that’s what sitting down for over 15 hours can do to you.”
After getting settled in their Hangzhou hotel, one of the first things the team did was share their skills in basketball clinics with local children.
“When teaching basketball to non-English speaking basketball players, there are two words you can count on making absolute sense to everyone present: Michael Jordan,” said sophomore Tabitha Gerardot, of Fort Wayne, Ind. “No amount of shouting, perfect pronunciation, or exaggerated expressions helped the aspiring Chinese athletes I was working with as much as that universal name.”
The trip featured a number of special practices, and basketball games against Zhejiang University of Technology and Zhejiang Chouzhou, a professional team.
“Basketball in China was a whole new game,” said senior Laura Richards of Connersville, Ind. “Even to understand what the other team was doing when they are communicating in a different language was all a new experience for us.”
“They run and gun and are very intense,” said Adams. “I think it was definitely a great learning experience that will better prepare us for some of the teams we face this upcoming season.”
Beyond the basketball games and experience itself, team members said the trip was a memorable bonding opportunity.
“When you go through new experiences – even things like eating new foods – you really bond because you are in a world that is so different, you really feel all the similarities with each other,” said Gerardot.
During their time in China, team members were able to visit the beautiful West Lake area of Hangzhou as well as a Buddhist Temple, and the Forbidden City and Great Wall in Beijing.
Richards said, looking back as a senior now, the trip has been a capstone to her Valpo experience.
“It’s been a wonderful experience … you get to go new places, meet new people, and our coaching staff will help you with anything, they are always there for you,” said Richards. “Being at Valpo has been a great opportunity, and a blessing for me in very aspect.”