Basketball Brawl Makes Georgetown Hoyas a Hot Ticket in China

Coach Thompson says he hopes team learns from the on-court fight.

August 21, 2011, 8:47 PM

SHANGHAI, China, Aug. 21, 2011— -- Georgetown basketball was the hottest ticket in Shanghai today, but nobody was anticipating it more than Hoyas head coach John Thompson III.

"It would be misleading if didn't say that the last couple of days have been trying and stressful," Thompson told ABC News. "But for me as coach and for the players it's good to get back on the court.

The game in Shanghai was the Hoyas' first since their now infamous brawl in Beijing with the Chinese army team, the Bayi Rockets.

The Georgetown team is on a two-week goodwill tour of China. But the full court melee that occurred on the Olympic Sportscenter Stadium hardwood even overshadowed Vice President Joe Biden's diplomatic overtures to lunch at local Beijing fried liver restaurant.

Images of the fight spread so quickly through social media, people treated the fight like an international incident. The Chinese propaganda department even reportedly issued directives to local media outlets against mentioning it news reports.

The two teams themselves, however, have made up.

"We both felt that our team and their team that it was important that we got in a room and sit down and acknowledge it's time to move on," said Thompson, speaking exclusively with ABC News. "At the end of the day it was a competition that turned into a conflict. You can use that to grow and learn."

Even after most of the team had left Beijing for Shanghai Friday, Thompson and two of his players met privately at with the Bayi coach and to two of his players to reconcile. The two teams exchanged autographed basketballs.

But there was no doubt that the incident had clearly drummed up interest in today's exhibition game at a Shanghai sporting event aiming to promote sports to Chinese youths. After all, it was billed to be a Bayi-Georgetown rematch.

Half an hour before game time, the venue was already packed. James Burbridge, an American expat living in Shanghai, was looking for a way into the game.

"I wanted to watch the Bayi team play Georgetown again," Brubridge told us. "I'd figure it would be a scrappy game."

But it wasn't to be. A scheduling change, which had nothing to do with the fight, meant fans had to settle for another professional Chinese team.

"Now they're playing [the] Liaoning [Dinosaurs]," Burbridge said, betraying his disappointment.

The Hoyas ended up trouncing the Dinosaurs 92-68. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it was without incident.

Gene Wang, sportswriter for the Washington Post, who was the only reporter on scene for the Bayi-Hoyas fight in Beijing, noticed something immediately at the Shanghai event.

"The officials definitely had control of this game from the start," Wang said. "You could tell they weren't going to let it get anywhere near out of control."

Despite the win, Coach Thompson said he hopes his team's takeaway from this rather eventful trip to China is a hard-knocked and hard-earned lesson in diplomacy.

"It's important for our players to walk away understand that we are Georgetown, and the things that we do whether you think about it or not, in some way, shape or form can have an effect above and beyond our small little group," Thompson said. "And now I know our guys understand that."

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