Tim Abromaitis

In His Words: Abromaitis at the World University Games

Aug. 25, 2011

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A member of the USA Men’s Basketball Team, Tim Abromaitis checks from the World University Games in Shenzen, China.

(Editor’s note: Tim is hoping to provide Irish fans with as many updates as possible throughout his two-week stay in China, subject to limited internet connections.)

8.24.11 – Hello again America! I arrived back in South Bend last night around midnight after another long round of travel. I’m quickly getting reacquainted with the English language so I can refrain from writing this in Chinese and confusing all of my monolingual readers like I had planned. Hopefully that also means my quality of writing will be higher, which would be good timing for me with classes already starting back up at Notre Dame.

My trip to Shenzhen was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and all of my teammates on Team USA. Unfortunately, the basketball part didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked, as we ended up coming in fifth place in the tournament. We lost our quarterfinals game against Lithuania before winning our last two consolation games against Romania and Germany. Nothing seemed to go right for us in the game we lost, and my foul trouble certainly didn’t help the cause. Fortunately, that game was followed by solid performances both personally and collectively in the two days after that. Overall, we ended up 7-1, which actually turned out to be the best record in the tournament.

Personally, getting a chance to play for great coaches and with great teammates was something that will help me out immensely in my last year at Notre Dame. I was able to work on my game with and against some of the top players in college around the world, and picked up helpful tools in the process. Once I get over this jet lag, I’ll be ready to go – I’m already anxious for the season to get here.

I won’t soon forget the unique features of China that I will never witness in the United States. Even though I think Americans are generally a friendly bunch, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to match the reception that we received in Shenzhen. By the end of the trip I had even received a letter to my room from a fan in the city that had paid extra to get it shipped into the athlete village area. It was on military love note stationary with a blushing military cartoon character on the front with “LOVE” cut into the side of the card. Unfortunately for me it was from someone named Tobey. It’s amazing that even with five million women in the city the odds weren’t on my side. However, Tobey did show me how to write my name in Chinese, which might take years of practice for me to actually memorize.

I would be surprised if I have many more chances to make such a memorable trip in the future with any other team. I am extremely lucky to have been a part of such an amazing journey over the last month because of the fact that I can (sometimes) help my team make an inflated ball go through a metal rim. I really appreciate the opportunity given to me by USA Basketball, and the fact that everybody reading this followed me through the experience.

Can’t wait to see all of your beautiful faces in the stands at our games this year! Go Irish!!!

8.17.11 – Yo! No, Yao! What’s up Irish fans? Back at it with another report from the spot where I landed when I finished digging my hole in the middle of South Bend – Shenzhen, China.

A couple more good days here in the sweltering heat that Shenzhen experiences for the summer. We can’t even walk 200 feet to the dining hall without breaking a sweat. That’s one reason why I’m thankful we didn’t have to go there tonight for dinner and made a trip to Pizza Hut instead.

Another is the high quality food that the Pizza Hut had to offer. Instead of a typical American take-out Pizza Hut, this was a somewhat classy sit-down restaurant with food that made us feel right at home. I downed an appetizer sampler, seven slices of pizza, an ice cream dessert and four strawberry smoothies (thanks USA Basketball, sorry T-Ro (our strength coach (aka the DFG).

My eating performance ranks right up there with our hot dog eating contest from earlier this summer.

It’s not that the food we’ve had in the cafeteria has been bad. There’s a really wide selection from different regions in the world and I’ve been able to try out a lot of different cultures’ foods that have been surprisingly good. The meat in the Muslim section has been my go-to for the trip. However, I am a little nervous that there is a sign over the plates in that section that says “For Muslims Only”. Plus, if there’s nothing better they have a McDonald’s set up right in the middle of the cafeteria. Our team is clearly the biggest customer there. Luckily, I’ve only had to choose that option twice so far on this trip.

Basketball is still going pretty well for the team. We had a really good game yesterday against Finland, who ended up coming in second in our pool of six teams. Today we had a good test against Israel, but were able to pull away in the second half and hold them away enough to win by 10. We’ve won our pool now so we play in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. Go Irish!

8.16.11 – Hello again world and Irish fans.

Seems like a while since I wrote anything, and I sincerely apologize for that. I’m actually not that sorry though, since I still have you reading this so I probably could have put off writing this a little longer. In reality, we’ve been pretty busy the last couple days so I’ll just get into that.

After our game yesterday we were told we’d get first-class treatment and go out to a TGIFridays somewhere in the city. We knew we were in trouble when that “somewhere in the city” meant as much to all of us as it did to our cab drivers. What should have been a half hour drive ended up much longer than that, especially on the way back. Then, once we were told we arrived, there wasn’t actually any TGIFridays, just some place that apparently claimed to be over the phone.

After some hesitation, we ended up staying and eating the food there, which actually turned out to be pretty good. Since we had one big lounge area to ourselves, the owner thought it would be a good touch to treat us to some American music. For this, he put in a Tina Turner concert DVD. It took a few more tries before we got some music to get us going, but once they found it we provided the rest of the entertainment. The 12 of us (with some more than others) took part in some karaoke/freestyle rapping for about an hour after dinner. I’m praying video evidence of this never makes its way to the public.

After a long night and with the day free from games, we got up early today to go to a market area in downtown Shenzhen. We weren’t sure what to expect but were more than pleased with the wide selection of “brand name” accessories and technology. For a good amount of stuff, I only spent about $80 today. It was my time to shine with all of the skills that I learned in negotiations class last year, since I know I paid less than my teammates for some of the same items that they got. Hopefully we go again on our next day off and I can do some damage once again.

Basketball has been going about as well as my negotiations, since we still haven’t had any close games yet. I would be nice if it stays that way, but I’m sure we’ll have a challenge coming up sometime soon. Personally, I haven’t shot it particularly well yet this tournament, but haven’t fouled out either so I can live with that. We were able to make it to the USA women’s game today, and I think they might have won by less if they were playing 5-on-0 the whole time. They’re really talented, and it’s fun to see the Notre Dame girls playing so well out here.

One of the coolest parts of this trip has been the reaction our team has gotten from the people in Shenzhen. We can’t walk anywhere without everyone taking out cameras and asking for pictures and autographs. All of our games have been completely full in the 18,000-seat arena – minus the area for other athletes – and they cheer for absolutely everything.

They’re also the happiest and friendliest people I’ve been around. When Ashton Gibbs and I were walking to breakfast yesterday, one of the volunteers asked to get a picture with us. After the picture, Ashton told the man he liked his watch. On the spot the guy took it off and handed it to Ashton and said in broken English, “I gift you.” Hopefully our fans aren’t planning on being as nice to him when they come to South Bend this winter.

As always, Go Irish!

8.13.11 – Hello Irish fans! No, this is not Jack Nolan writing, but I had to steal that line from him at least once for this blog.

Anyways, a lot has happened since I last update my millions of avid readers, and I know you’ve been hitting the refresh button constantly to hear about the happenings.

We played our exhibition game two days ago and beat the team we played pretty easily. The team actually was decent, and one of their players was Gavin Edwards, who had been a good player for Connecticut a couple years ago.

I started the game with the first three-pointer for our team, and seemingly followed it up with our first five fouls too. I can’t explain why, but if there was a foul called on us, it automatically went to me. There were two called where I wasn’t even in the action. My last foul was a charge I took that would have made Coach Krzyzewski wish he had recruited me at Duke.

We got back to Shenzhen on Thursday night so we could practice and get to the opening ceremonies. The first sign that this whole event was a big deal happened during our practice. We were in the middle of switching drills and Coach Painter was explaining something when at least 30 Chinese people rushed onto the court with towels to wipe the entire thing down right in the middle of our team. No one had ever seen anything like this before, and I wish it had lasted long enough for me to grab my camera to prove its absurdity.

After practice we went to the opening ceremonies, which we honestly were not looking forward to. However, the magnitude of the even was something I will never forget. After holding all 7,000+ athletes in a huge indoor arena that is housing table tennis games, they paraded us into a huge outdoor stadium packed with Chinese people constantly cheering for the athletes and their teams who walked into the arena. In addition to this, there had to be 10,000 people working the event or working as entertainers dancing around on stage. Some were actually doing choreographed dances, but they also had two lines of side-by-side people that must have been a mile-long doing some of the worst dancing I’ve seen since Jack Cooley last tried to dance in our huddle before one of our games.

After the whole spectacle, we got back to the athletes’ village around midnight. We sat around all day today doing nothing until our game tonight, which was another success. We beat Mexico by about 40. I played pretty well, and at least I didn’t foul out in about five minutes this time! Hopefully we can keep this success going when we play Hungary tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Go Irish!

8.11.11 – Ni hao! Today we’re in in the city of Huizhou for an exhibition game that we’ll be playing tonight. Huizhou is another huge city in the southeast with a nice skyline which he have a nice view of from our hotel room.

So far Huizhou has been really good to us. We came here last night from Shenzhen after a bumpy hour and a half bus ride. We’re all still not completely adjusted to the time change, but luckily we had some more comfortable living arrangements here so it wasn’t hard to relax and get some sleep last night.

We’re staying in a really nice Crowne Plaza, and once again I’m rooming with Ashton Gibbs. He’s a really cool guy, and actually reminds me a lot of our old point guard, Tory Jackson. We have been in a spacious and modern room that seems like one of the nicest ones we would stay in for a Notre Dame road game. The food here in the hotel has been awesome, which has made this daytrip even better.

We had a shoot-around this morning in the gym where we’ll be playing tonight, and it must’ve been 100 degrees in there. We were sweating by the time we put our shoes on, and were drenched after the hour of shoot-around and walk-through. The team we’re playing tonight is supposed to be one of the best professional teams in China so hopefully it will be a good challenge to get us ready for the tournament.

Our trip to and from shoot-around was our first real up-close look at Chinese people and normal life. With the exception of parts of Hartford, it’s the first time I’ve been in an area where the main language for everyone isn’t English in quite some time. We’ve all started to learn some Chinese phrases, but unless they know English our conversations can’t go very far. Our communication has been like two days of a really one-sided Mad Gab game. It really is crazy how many people are here – it seems like the cities are packed with high-rise apartment buildings and people milling about everywhere. There is supposed to be a good crowd at our game tonight too, so hopefully we show well.

I’ll let you millions of readers in the States know how it goes. Bai Bai!

8.10.11 – What’s up Irish fans? Hi, mom!

Thought I’d keep everyone updated from my experiences at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, that’s taking place over the next two weeks. I was selected to the team to represent the United States after a week of tryouts and training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., along with 11 other college guys.

We arrived into Shenzhen on Tuesday (Aug. 9) night following what I think turned out to be a 32-hour flight that started in Denver (my math might be completely wrong, I’m not a big fan of time zones). We took off from the Olympic Training Center at 4:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 8) morning, and finally got into our room at the Athletes’ Village in China at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday night (local time). Our bags got scanned about 12 times over the course of the trip.

I spent a great deal of time napping during the flight. In all, I think I took around eight 45-minute naps.

For the next two weeks we will be staying in a complex with all of the other athletes competing in the World University Games, and our team is in a group of four rooms all next to each other in a hallway. That means there are three people to each room, which is not a good thing when we are all big guys and the rooms are super small.

I take that back, Ashton Gibbs from Pittsburgh is one of my roommates and he’s about 5-8, so I think I got a lucky draw for the room situation. My other roommate is Darius Miller from Kentucky, and he seems to be a pretty cool guy so hopefully that eases the transition into a tiny room.

We’re playing our first game on Saturday and we’re going to play an exhibition game in Huizhou Thursday night while taking part in the opening ceremonies here in Shenzhen on Friday. I’ll keep you updated on our adventures. Go Irish!