Cosby Thrived in the Far East

Aaron Cosby needed to shake the rust off -- nine games in 10 days in China did the trick.

CHAMPAIGN — Aaron Cosby needed to get back into game experience, so a trip to China made good sense.

The Illinois guard, who sat out last season after transferring, played nine games in 10 days in May and squeezed in a trip to the Great Wall.

Not bad for a business trip.

"It was a great experience getting back on the court, shaking the rust off and getting back into a competitive setting," Cosby said. "It's been a while (after) sitting out a year. I feel like I learned a lot, some things I can bring back and work hard on over the summer and take it to the season."

The Louisville, Ky., native travelled to the Far East with an organization called Sports Reach. Labeled as a cultural exchange basketball trip, Cosby averaged 18.1 points and shot 34.7 percent from 3-point range. He led the team in scoring four times, notching 27 points on two occasions.

"First couple games I was winded because you know I haven't played in a while," he said. "I just stayed aggressive. I was able to play through missing my first couple shots. Once I got over that I kind of got myself going, into a rhythm."

The idea for Cosby to participate came from Cosby's dad and was quickly approved by Coach John Groce.

"He just told me to compete offensively, don't hesitate," the 6-foot-3 Cosby said of Groce's instructions beforehand. "Be aggressive defensively, get after it.

"I didn't have a lot of expectations numbers-wise. I just wanted to go out and compete and show my improvements I've made over the past year."

Cosby spent a total of 16 days on the trip, the non-basketball highlight occurring when he visited the Great Wall.

That's, "something I didn't think I'd ever get to see," he said. "That was something that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I was able to talk to some kids over there. I gave away some Illini gear to the kids over there. I think we've got some new fans over there."

Cosby said the competition was mixed, some teams could keep up in the Big Ten. The play was mostly up-tempo, with a larger-sized basketball and a longer 3-point range. Another difference was smoke. Literally, the arenas were smoky, since there's no smoking ban in buildings, nor is there a smoking age limit.

"Everybody was smoking. 10-year-old kids were smoking," he said. "I've never seen that before."

A couple of translators helped with getting around and making food orders. Cosby described the meals as different, noting that he didn't want to say anything bad about the food.

"It was a little bit different than what I was used to, but I wasn't complaining," he said. "I was happy to be playing."

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