Since Los Angeles is home to numerous movie stars, pop singers and professional athletes, members of the UCLA basketball team typically don't draw much attention when they venture outside of Westwood.
In basketball-crazed China, however, the reception has been a little bit different.
Wherever the UCLA traveling party has gone during the first two days of the Bruins' trip to China, they've become the attraction. Hundreds of Chinese, young and old, approached the UCLA players and coaches for autographs and pictures on Friday during their tours of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and during their team lunch at the Guanjude Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.
The most popular Bruin has been center Joshua Smith, partially because of his 6-foot-10, 300-plus-pound frame and partially because of he wore a sedge hat he purchased earlier in the trip. A group of Chinese women even poked fun at how much of taller he was than them, standing on a nearby stage so they could be close to his height in the photo.
In Friday's UCLA in China diary entry, Smith shared his reaction to the attention he has received and his thoughts on seeing the Great Wall and the Forbidden City for the first time.
Joshua Smith (@YoungChoppz_34):
Our trip to the Great Wall definitely met my expectations. I didn't know what to expect. Just knowing that we visited one of the seven wonders of the world is unreal. It didn't really hit me until I climbed to the third tower and I realized how high up we were and how massive the wall is. I was more than satisfied going to that third tower. It's an unbelievable structure, especially given the historical significance.
[Having people ask to take photos] was kind of awkward at first, but the people here are really nice. It's just one of those things where people recognize that you are from a different country and they don't typically see guys like me or my teammates. It was a lot of fun. I love interacting with people, and this is the first time that I've been to China so I welcomed any opportunity for these people to take photos with me and my teammates.
It was pretty funny when we were touring the Forbidden City. There were these three small kids sitting next to me, and I wasn't paying much attention to them. But each time that I'd look over at the kids, they would run back to their parents, almost as if they were intimidated. The parents would motion to their children to go over, as if to say 'Go there and say hi to him.' I would show them that I was being friendly and nice, and the next thing you know, the kids are wrapped around my legs and their parents were taking pictures. It's refreshing to see how friendly these people are even though I'm not able to speak their language.
Previously in the UCLA in China series: