Chinese university basketball looks to raise profile with season opener
The Chinese University Basketball Association Wednesday "tipped off" the season with Suzhou hosting Nanjing Finance & Economics in Jiangsu Province. This game is part of a new era for the league, thanks to a deal expected to raise the CUBA's profile to previously unseen levels.
The start of the new CUBA campaign coincides with the beginning of a seven-year, nearly 100 million USD business rights partnership with AliBaba's specialized division, AliSports. This agreement with the Federation of University Sports of China -- which oversees inter-collegiate competition in the country -- covers areas ranging from marketing and sponsorships, to broadcast rights, to social media projects.
“This is the opening game, and Suzhou University is playing at home, where we have about 2,500 fans cheering for the hosts. But hundreds of supporters have also traveled from Nanjing University of Finance & Economics to support their team,” Zhang Dazhong, CEO of AliSports, said.
“This shows that the new home-and-away format can help drive inter-collegiate culture, and transform the CUBA into everybody's league,” Zhang added. Meanwhile, Xue Yanqing, sports administrator of Chinese Ministry of Education, mentioned, “We think more popularization is better all around, as this gives more students the opportunity to play basketball, and even more talented players can emerge from the league. We have already had several CUBA players participate in the CBA Draft in recent years, and if the college game continues to improve, this will help more young players reach the professional level.”
But notwithstanding the potential for an increasing number of domestic standouts to be selected in future editions of the Chinese Basketball Association's Draft, it is other near-term benefits, which are garnering the most immediate appreciation from the players.
In the words of Wang Ding, the captain of Suzhou University, “The fans are quite enthusiastic, and the competition level is very intense, so we feel even more excited than we had in previous seasons.”
“Our goal is to reach the CUBA playoffs, and personally, I plan to work hard over the next two years, to try and reach the professional ranks,” cited Gu Yu from Nanjing University of Finance & Economics.
The students at Suzhou University, as well as their visiting counterparts from NUFE, are opening China's latest college basketball season with an abundance of school spirit, as well as high hopes that their team will be able to cut down the nets, when the country's 21st national champions are crowned at the end of the campaign.
Finishing on top means outplaying the rest of the 80 sides that make up the CUBA's top division, but on day one, Nanjing University of Finance & Economics would settle for an early return on investment, after cashing in a hard-fought 76-67 win against their provincial rivals -- the first step in what could be a long quest -- for one shining moment. .