On the Bus With Coach Wojcik
Wojcik is a member of the coaching staff on the C-USA China Tour
May 29, 2008
Guangdong, China -
The first in a two-part series of interviews with the two Conference USA head coaches who have accompanied Memphis coach John Calipari on the China Trip. First up, Tulsa's Doug Wojcik. The second Assistant oach profile and more information on the China Trip can be found on the "C-USA Basketball Goes International" link on the Tulsa basketball page at www.tulsahurricane.com.
Special thanks to David Scott for his China Tour coverage and feature stories.
Written by David Scott
The decision to join the Conference USA All-Stars tour of China was not an easy one for Doug Wojcik. This coming weekend in his hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia, Wojcik's nephew, Zach Basich - a state champion wrestler - will graduate from high school and then follow in his Uncle Doug's footsteps by enrolling at the United States Naval Academy.
"When I saw what weekend it was, I was like, `Wow, I'd really like to be there with Zach,'" said the Tulsa coach, who led the Golden Hurricane to the conference title game and the inaugural CBI title this past season. "My wife said to me that I had to go on this trip. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think Zach will understand - I'm going to email him today or tomorrow and let him know I'm thinking about him and wish I could be there."
While Zach moves onto the next step of his educational career, Wojcik's presence on this trip furthers his coaching career in ways he might never have imagined.
"I've said to myself a few times that this is something I may never do again," said Wojcik. "It's just been eye-opening in so many ways and I've been to a lot of places through my time in the Navy, but I find that there is a real fascination with life on this side of the world. China has a mystique to it and the opportunity to come to a communist country is incredible for anyone, especially someone like me who has a deep interest in history."
Also making the journey a special one for Wojcik is being able to share it with one of his players, guard Ben Uzoh. (Originally, Tulsa's Jerome Jordan was also scheduled to be on the trip, but some visa issues held the precocious shot blocker out of the trip.)
"It was really a shame on a number of levels that Jerome couldn't be here on," said Wojcik. "I think he could have been a difference maker in the games, but also just the experience would have been great for him. But I'm so happy Ben is here and that I'm getting to spend more time with him. I also think this is the kind of thing that can really help him this upcoming season because he sees that he is one of the better players in the league. He's made a difference for our program and I'm happy that he's able to be a part of this and for me to be able to go through it with him."
Uzoh has been keeping an on-line diary for the Tulsa World and that too has been a huge positive emerging from the trip. "I guess people back home have been loving it and it's a great way to keep our fans engaged during the off-season," said Wojcik.
The trip has also afforded Wojcik the opportunity to grow closer to Calipari and the other coaches on the trip. "I played against Rod (Strickland) during college; John Robic is from the same area as me and I've always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Tony (Barbee)," said Wojcik. "John's always treated me like a little brother in the league and I value that relationship."
Wojcik played under Paul Evans, a coach that Calipari assisted under at Pittsburgh. "We have that connection, but I really just like the way Cal talks to the players and the things that he says. He's right on the mark as far as talking to the kids."
Wojcik too has been right on the mark in his assistant duties. Prior to the team's first game against Team China, he drew up an impromptu scouting report on Team China with the help of one of the trip's China-based organziers.
"You know, we're here to have fun and experience new things but we're all competitors," said Wojcik. "When it got to the fourth quarter, we all wanted to win as if it were a Conferenec USA game."
Those games won't start up again for a few months and when they do, Zach Basich - the son of Wojcik's sister Denise - will be beginning his first year of college. Coach Wojcik hopes the freshman-to-be knows that even though his uncle is half a world away, he's thinking of him and he's proud of him.
"I'll email him and let him know," said Uncle Doug. "It would have been great to be there with him for his day, but this trip was too good to pass up."