Georgia Tech completed its second full day in China, spending much of it at the headquarters of Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant that is worth close to $500 billion. The highlights were many, from an hour-long presentation from co-founder Joe Tsai to the plastic figurine given to attendees, including a quite delighted Ben Lammers. (The doll is a mascot of the company.)
Other images and moments from Monday:
Scooters and bicycles are a primary mode of transportation in Hangzhou, often a better alternative given the crushing traffic in the downtown area. The bicycles, at least, help solve both traffic and air pollution concerns. The air in Hangzhou is among the dirtiest in the world. The city has a public bike-share program that reportedly has 84,000 bicycles as well as a burgeoning “Uber for bikes” business.
A vertical parking garage on the campus of Alibaba. Cars are stacked three high in this space-saving structure. Upon seeing the garage at the Alibaba entrance, Tech coaches joked that a similar garage should be built at the Peters Deck near Bobby Dodd Stadium. “Senior design project,” quipped student manager Erik Maday.
Lammers attempts a shot at the Alibaba basketball court. It was something of an odd segment of the itinerary. Both UCLA and Georgia Tech were scheduled to shoot around in the gym, and were there for close to an hour, casually hoisting up shots. Perhaps the highlight of the time was the UCLA mascot, Joe Bruin, defending Tech assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie. The bear was an insistent defender, even slapping the floor with the palms of his paws in a show of intensity, and was able to stay in front of LaBarrie despite the coach’s attempts to cross him up. LaBarrie had to settle for a long-distance 3-pointer, which was off the mark.
Tech guard Justin Moore might have made the most use of the time, visiting with a close friend on the UCLA team, freshman Jaylen Hands. They’re both from San Diego; Moore said that Hands lives just two exits down from Moore on I-805. “He’s just like my little brother,” Moore said. The two competed in AAU basketball and also at the high-school level.
Moore, by the way, is on the hunt to bring home a Gucci shoulder bag while in China.
“They have a lot of stuff here you can’t get in the U.S.,” said Moore, perhaps the most fashion-conscious Jacket.
The Jackets comply with Joe Tsai’s request for a selfie. As noted in the story about Tech’s visit to Alibaba, Tsai seems to follow basketball fairly closely, as might be expected of a man who reportedly recently purchased 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets for $2.3 billion. After Lammers presented Tsai with a personalized jersey that Tsai is seen holding in his right hand, it sounded like he asked Lammers, “You attack the rim, right?” Perhaps Tsai was in the early stages of pre-draft vetting.
The two teams pose in the Alibaba gym with Tsai, in the middle with the dark-gray t-shirt. Tech president G.P. “Bud” Peterson is behind Tsai and basketball hall of famer Bill Walton is behind Peterson, a formidable trio.
Tech guard Brandon Alston gets some face time with Walton. Alston, a graduate transfer from Lehigh, said Walton asked about his alma mater (Alston’s, not Walton’s). Alston also scored a selfie with Tsai. Alston is rehabbing an MCL sprain suffered against Georgia State in a preseason exhibition October 28. While he hasn’t returned to five-on-five play in practice, Alston said he expects to be ready for the opener against UCLA on Saturday (Friday night in the U.S.). He’s an important player for Tech in particular for this game because of the absence of guards Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, as they have been withheld from regular-season competition by the school for NCAA rules violations.
A display on the Alibaba campus counting down the days to November 11, which in China is known as Singles’ Day (as the numerical date, 11/11 is four “single” (as opposed to couple) numbers. The day has come to be associated with shopping (because what holiday isn’t associated with consumerism), and Alibaba has leveraged the association to great effect. According to Tsai, $18 billion worth of goods are sold through Alibaba on 11/11. Tsai that said on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (after Thanksgiving), the total amount of purchases made on all Internet sites is between $5 and $6 billion.
The assembly for Tsai’s presentation after the hullaballoo in the gym. Walton is closest to the camera, sitting next to the Tech team. Walton was rapt listening to Tsai, taking copious notes and twice shushing two men standing nearby who were talking during the presentation. After cohorts of the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy (something like a high-powered internship) finished, the floor was opened to questions. Walton quickly asked what both teams’ coaches thought of a particular aspect of the company’s culture in which employees don’t have assigned roles, but are encouraged to figure out how to add value to the business. Unfortunately, Pastner couldn’t answer because he had stepped out to use the men’s room. In a related note, Pastner downed several bottles of water during Tsai’s presentation.
A projection of the home screen of Tsai’s phone. (Walton asked for Tsai’s number.) Tsai made this a part of the presentation to show the uses of the Alibaba app, which can take a picture of a product with the phone’s camera and then, presumably through technology similar to facial recognition software, can find the product on the Alibaba site for purchase. Tsai didn’t realize, however, one small drawback of making his phone display so public. While the projection was up, a text message popped up on the screen that he quickly closed, much to the audience’s amusement. (He said he thought it was from his wife.) Later, he received a Snapchat message that was said to have read “Purple Lamborghini.”
Pastner shares lunch with basketball publicist Mike Stamus and basketball academic adviser Whitney Burton at a cafeteria at Alibaba, whose Hangzhou campus spreads across 18 acres and employs 16,000 people. A member of the aforementioned global leadership team said that the company operates on a 9/9/6 ethos, meaning working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Stamus is known to employ similar diligence.
Sylvester Ogbonda signs a souvenir basketball before practice at the Hangzhou International School, where the Jackets practiced Monday. The school has students from 46 different countries, from pre-school through high school, mostly from the U.S. and Canada. Several automakers have plants in Hangzhou to capture a piece of the world’s largest auto market (which may explain the air quality). One of them is Ford, which opened a highly automated assembly plant in 2015 that can assemble a vehicle once every 72 seconds.
The Hangzhou International School basketball teams watch the Jackets go through drills. After the practice, the students were invited to meet the Tech players, none of whom were more engaging than Justin Moore. The sophomore introduced himself to the students, had them shoot, went one-on-one with a couple of them and, with Evan Cole and Shembari Phillips, put on a dunking exhibition.
This, evidently, was not Moore’s first one-on-one competition of the day. That’s Moore on the bottom right, perhaps trying to improve his draft stock with the Nets.
The day closes at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou with a custom fitting for blazers and shirts from a local merchant. Each Tech player was allowed to select one jacket. Tech assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie looks through fabrics with the help of wife Aisha. UCLA coach Steve Alford is to their left.
Stories from China: