Greg Gantt returns from China lighter, leaner, ready to sign European contract


Ryan Murphy

Photo by Ryan Murphy

Greg Gantt, the all-time leading scorer in FAU basketball history, is back on American soil after spending 10 days in China competing with a handpicked squad of D-League players.

It took a total of 20 hours of travel time to get to East Asia, and immediately after, the team practiced in an extremely warm gym. Gantt claims to have lost a full 10 pounds on the trip.

“I thought I was in pretty good shape,” he said. “It took my conditioning to a new level.”

The entire team went through an adjusting period. Chinese culture shuns cold drinks, and the players were provided only with warm water and (also warm) orange juice, a stark contrast to the ice cold array of beverages that American professional athletes have at their disposal.

A few players vomited after ingesting warm liquids during their first game, but it was brutal jet lag that affected Gantt initially.

“It’s kind of hard to get up for a game at [what feels like] 7 a.m.,” he said, referring to the time on his body clock. “It’s a full 12-hour time change.”

Gantt mentioned that all those 8 a.m. practices under former FAU basketball coach Mike Jarvis made him used to having perform so early in the morning.

Pulling up to the arena for the third of their four total games in China, Gantt remembers around 1,000 people gathering around the team bus, in awe of the players that were stepping out.

“You get kind of bored playing the same team so many times,” he said, referring to the Chinese national team (a team they played on three separate occasions). “It was tough to keep getting up for them. Seeing all those people really got us fired up, ready to play.”

Two people even followed Gantt back to his hotel room after a game — for an innocent picture. He claims to have had a taste of what it’s like for the men who are in the major leagues.

“We’re not in the NBA,” he said. “I can see why people like LeBron James go off every night. That type of fan support is crazy.”

The American team finished their tour undefeated amid some controversy. With one minute remaining in one game, Gantt says that the scoreboard operators, who were Chinese, tried to inconspicuously add three more minutes to the game — an attempt to give the Chinese squad a shot at pulling out a win.

“They didn’t really respect us,” he said.

The experience outside of the basketball court was quite jarring. Abject poverty surrounded the American team.

“It’s crazy over there, there isn’t too much to do. The people are really poor,” Gantt said, referring to citizens of Quanzhou, China. “You’ve got poverty, the place is overpopulated, I felt sorry for them.”

Overall, Gantt calls the trip a fun experience. Now he looks to secure a contract with a professional team from Turkey or Italy. He trusts his agent to find the best opportunity possible for him.

Should he sign in Italy, Gantt may touch base with his former FAU teammate, Pablo Bertone. In late April, the UP reported that Bertone would almost certainly be playing out his professional basketball career in Italy.

Bertone went undrafted, and he did not make an NBA Summer League roster. Both he and Gantt will have a shot at carving out careers for themselves in Europe soon.

Wesley Wright is the Sports Editor of the University Press. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.