The Love Of Basketball Unites Chinese Michigan State Students On Team Empire
The team is celebrating its sixth year, with a tradition of being a special space where hoops, friendship, and hard work are steadfast.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The best things in life know no borders.
Take Michigan State’s Team Empire basketball club. It was founded in 2013, as an outlet for Chinese international students at MSU who love to play basketball.
Team Empire helps one of MSU’s Chinese undergraduate student unions, CUSA, hold basketball competitions every year in order to allow more Chinese international students to enjoy the fun of basketball and promote the sports culture of Chinese international students.
Linyuan Fan is Team Empire ‘s coach. He is a mathematics professor at a university in China and is currently a visiting scholar at MSU. He uses his free time to help the team improve its teamwork.
“I am a basketball fanatic. I started playing high school games more than ten years ago, and I also played in the Chinese college league. Basketball has always been a hobby that I can't give up. As I got older, I started serving as a basketball referee to keep participating in the game,” Fan said. “My teammates and I are all in love with basketball. My players got some intensive basketball training in high school, but when they came to MSU, they didn't have access to this same level of training.
“Team Empire was created for these Chinese kids who love basketball. We train three times a week, starting at 7 pm. This will not conflict with players' study time. We make full use of our spare time training to enhance our strength and foster rapport.”
Team Empire has attracted a lot of new players this year, so Fan designed its tactics around the new talent. During each training session, they carry out two-person and three-person fast break drills. Fan is asking the team to push the ball and improve the speed of attack and defense conversion.
“Our team is focused on playing fast basketball, and we focus on offensive and defensive transitions,” Fan said. “There are a lot of people on our team. I hope to give full play to their physical strength. I want to bring high-intensity defensive pressure to our opponents. My team gives opponents high pressure, so they are more likely to make mistakes. I have been emphasizing that players have to seize the opportunity of the other side's mistakes, and quickly push the basketball to use the fast break and score.
“I emphasized a lot of awareness about physical fitness in the training class. When a player feels a little tired, I ask them to tell me immediately and I will switch to another player. In this way, our team's high-intensity defense will continue.”.
In addition to daily training, the team atmosphere is also an advantage of Team Empire. The close relationship between the players makes this team cohesive.
“Throughout the development of basketball as a sport, the role of the players’ team spirit in the actual game is more and more important. Basketball is a collective sport and relying on the play of one or two players to win the game violates the integrity of the collective project. It is difficult to create good results in the game by playing this way,” Fan said. “When we train every time someone makes a mistake, the teammates on the court will not hesitate to point it out. But the player who got the turnover will not be angry - they will accept it with humility. Even though they blamed each other loudly in the last round, and they can show absolute trust to each other in the next round. The last second is the enemy, and the next second is the closest comrade.”
Zimiao Lin is the captain of Team Empire. He loves the team, and everyone is his good brother.
“In the last game, when the game went to the final moment, we were behind the score, and my teammates on the spot shouted ‘Defense!’ - this gave me the feeling that I have been supported by a group of brothers in my life and I am brave enough to go forward. I love this feeling,” Lin said. “Although we lost the game, I will never forget this feeling. There are always wins and losses in the game, but my friends and I struggle for a goal, and there are very few such opportunities. I cherish them very much. What I want to say most is ‘Thanks, thank you for working with everyone.’”
The basketball environment in China is somewhat different than in the United States. Both countries have long and proud basketball traditions. NBA stars such as Stephon Marbury and LeBron James are stars in China, while Americans probably best know Hall of Famer Yao Ming as the most famous name in Chinese basketball.
Different environments bring different personalities and different feelings.
“I have had a long history in Chinese high school and college basketball,” Fan said. “I can feel the atmosphere of Chinese basketball. Chinese international students at MSU and Chinese students in China give me a different feeling. The kids here are not bound. They can work hard for their dreams. I think this has something to do with family conditions.
“The families of kids who can come to study in the United States have a certain financial stability. They don’t have to consider too many financial problems. When I was in China, the children I met had many special factors. Many of them were fighting to become professional players. Some kids didn't love basketball, they were just working hard for a future professional basketball career. The kids at MSU are passionate about basketball and give everything to the game. I like my guys.”