You may have seen the disturbing videos or photos of the bench-clearing brawl involving the Chinese and Brazilian basketball teams during a “friendly” game Tuesday night at Xuchang in China’s Henan province.
Sad to report that Cal junior center Max Zhang was on hand and apparently in the mix, at least to some degree.
Zhang, whose Chinese name is Zhang Zhaoxu, took the fall term off from Cal to play for the Chinese national team. He was on the roster for the FIBA World Championships last month, and was invited to remain with the team as it trains for next month’s Asian Games.
Now Chinese basketball officials are suspending preparations for the Asian Games while they sort out what happened Tuesday night.
The website Chinasmack.com posted a series of photos from the brawl, at least two of which focus on Zhang.
An important disclaimer: The caption under one photo reads “Zhang Zhaoxu punches opponent,” and it’s not clear in the picture whether that’s actually what was happening. A subsequent photo purports to show Zhang kicking a player, but I’m not certain it’s Zhang in the photo.
Another picture shows Zhang taking a right-hand blow from a Brazilian player.
The brawl began after Chinese coach Bob Donewald Jr. — a former NBA assistant — received two technical fouls for arguing a foul call. A Youtube video shows Donewald swearing and pounding his fist on the scorer’s table, then the video jumps to game action where a Chinese player goes after a Brazilian opponent and mayhem ensues.
Zhang, who was not in the game at the time the brawl began, can be seen in his warmup outfit at several points during the video.
Let’s be clear about this: We don’t know what happened here. The pictures and video show snippets of what occurred, and there is little context or even a clear time sequence. We don’t know if Max Zhang was guilty of anything more than being swept up in a crazy, out-of-control mob atmosphere.
Chinese officials will endeavor to untangle this mess, and Cal’s athletic department may have to do the same as it pertains to its player. Already it was unclear if Zhang was going to return to Cal for the second semester or remain in China, and the picture just got murkier.
However it shakes out, a sad and ugly day for basketball.