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Bulldogs Ready To Face Cal In Pac-12 China Game

Head Coach James Jones and Alex Copeland at a press conference at Shanghai Disneyland (Tim Bennett photo)
Head Coach James Jones and Alex Copeland at a press conference at Shanghai Disneyland (Tim Bennett photo)

Game Caps Memorable And Educational Week In China

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SHANGHAI, China – It was another memorable day in China for the Yale men's basketball team. It started with a visit with children from the Yao Ming Foundation at Shanghai Disneyland.

"For all of us, when we are able to interact with kids, it's a very humbling experience," said Alex Copeland during a press conference at Disney promoting the game. "To be across the world and realize you can be a source of inspiration for these kids was very surreal. We've had a lot of memorable things happen [on this trip] but that really stood out to me."

Later, the Bulldogs visited the Shanghai Municipal History Museum and then capped the day with a business presentation arranged by NorthernLight Venture Capital and the Yale Investment Office.

After four days of educational and cultural activities in addition to an exhibition game and practices, the Bulldogs now turn to their final preparation for Saturday's game. Yale has one more practice on Friday morning before an afternoon of rest and recovery.

Then, the Bulldogs officially open the 2018-19 season against California in the Pac 12 China game. Tipoff is set for noon on Saturday in China [11 p.m. EDT on Friday, Nov. 9 in New Haven] at Baoshan Arena. ESPNU has the broadcast with Roxy Bernstein and Sean Farnham on the call.

Expectations are again high for a Yale team that has posted a remarkable 42-14 Ivy League record over the last four years. The Bulldogs welcome back 95 percent of their offensive production from a year ago, including junior Miye Oni, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection who led the team in scoring (15.1 ppg.), rebounding (6.0 rpg.) and assists (105). In addition, Trey Phills, who earned second team All-Ivy honors, Alex Copeland (11.2 ppg.) Blake Reynolds (10.7 ppg.) and Paul Atkinson, the league leader in field goal percentage, all are back. The team also should be bolstered by the return of Jordan Bruner, who missed all of last season with an injury.

The Bulldogs are coming off a successful 2017-18 season that saw them finish third in the regular season, advance to the Ivy League Tournament and post 16 overall wins, all despite losing Bruner and Makai Mason '18 to season ending injuries. Yale has finished with a winning record in Ivy play in each of the last eight years, has qualified for both of the first two Ivy League Tournaments and has fi nished fourth or better in the league in a remarkable 18 straight seasons.

The architect of all that success is James Jones, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, who is entering his 20th season at the helm. Jones is the winningest coach in school history (288 career victories) and the third winningest coach in Ivy League history. He has guided Yale to the post season four times, including the 2016 NCAA Tournament where the Bulldogs upset Baylor in the first round, the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

Jones' three core principles are – defense, rebounding and sharing the ball. The Bulldogs led the Ivy League and were among the national leaders in assists a year ago. The points of emphasis in the preseason this year have been defense and rebounding. The Bulldogs allowed opponents to shoot an uncharacteristic 46 percent from the field a year ago, and Yale fi nished with a negative rebounding margin for the fi rst time since 2004-05 and only the third time in Jones' tenure as head coach. The return of Bruner and an added year of experience for a number of players should help improve those numbers.


Yale is playing California for the first time since the 2000-01 season, a 76-62 loss in the Golden Bear Classic. The only other meeting between the teams came in 1968, a 66-59 Cal victory at the Far West Classic in Portland, Ore.

The Bulldogs have enjoyed success against Pac-12 opponent. Yale opened the 2016-17 season with a 98-90 victory over the Markelle Fultz led Washington Huskies. That was the first career game for Miye Oni, who scored 24 points. In 2008, the Bulldogs knocked off Oregon State 53-52 in Corvallis.


For the second year in a row, the Bears enter the season with a youth-packed roster, with just two scholarship upperclassmen. Unlike last season, California's youth is battle-tested, with three returning starters in sophomores Justice Sueing, Darius McNeill and Juhwan Harris-Dyson. Sueing led the Bears in scoring (15.8 ppg) and ranked second in rebounding (5.7 rpg) in Pac-12 play. McNeill started each of the team's last 30 games in 2017-18, playing primarily as the team's point guard. With a true point guard in Paris Austin taking over at the 1, McNeill will move over to his more natural 2-guard spot this season. As a freshman, McNeill set the Cal freshman three-point record, tallying 67 three-pointers.


This is the second trip to China for the Yale men's basketball program. The Bulldogs spent nine-days in the country back in May of 2011 on an exhibition tour. They visited Chengdu and Shanghai and played four games against Chinese universities. Yale great John Lee '58 set up an endowment several years ago that allows the team to make a foreign trip once every four years, per NCAA rules. During James Jones' tenure, Yale has visited Italy, Spain, China and Australia.

Report filed by Tim Bennett (, Yale Sports Publicity