Women’s basketball: Bears excited about trip to China . . . well, most of it, anyway

From New Orleans and a first-ever trip to the Final Four last spring, the Cal women’s basketball team resumes action next week with three exhibition games in China.

But the 10-day adventure is as much about team bonding and cultural adventure as basketball.

Senior guard Afure Jemerigbe said she is excited about walking on the Great Wall and bargain-hunting at Beijing’s famed Silk Market.

“Especially the shopping,” echoed Brittany Boyd, a junior all-Pac-12 guard. “Everything’s a little cheaper out there than the U.S.”

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who has heard stories about the aggressive vendors at the Silk Market, said, “I think our players will be able to hold their own in the shopping department,” she said.

Boyd isn’t as confident she’s ready to confront the irregularities of Chinese indoor plumbing. “I hear it’s like a little hole in the ground,” she said of the restrooms. “I’m a little nervous about that.”

Gottlieb, who has three returning starters from a team that went 32-4 and shared the Pac-12 title last season, said she has no scouting report on either of the Beijing professional teams or the Shanghai university team the Bears will face.

“For a coach like me, who’s very big into prep, it’s pretty disconcerting to go in not having a game plan,” she said. “I’m less concerned about a scouting report, more concerned about can we progress as a team.”

The Bears will travel without senior forward Gennifer Brandon, who had surgery Aug. 8 to repair a recurrent right tibial stress fracture.

“She really believes she’s going to come back and be better than ever,” said Gottlieb, who expects Brandon to be ready to play by sometime during the Bears’ nonconference schedule.

In the meantime, the Bears are wrapping up 10 days of practice leading to Saturday’s flight to Beijing. Gottlieb is excited on many levels.

“To go into another country,” she said, “where we’re not going to be able to be on our phones 24/7, where we aren’t going to be able to be on Twitter and Facebook all the time, to be able to experience something culturally as a group and being out of our comfort zone is going to bond us in ways that none of us will ever forget.”

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Jeff Faraudo