McBee to play in China

Tennessee basketball player Skylar McBee is taking his game from Rocky Top to the Orient this month.

The rising sophomore guard from Rutledge, Tenn., is part of an 11-man team made up of current NCAA Division players that will play nine games against teams from the Chinese Basketball Association (A Level) May 14-31.

The trip is one of several athletic endeavors sponsored by Sports Reach, a Kentucky-based Christian sports ministry that uses athletics as a platform to share Christ throughout the world.

"I was hoping to do something like this at some point this summer," McBee said. "I was originally going to go on a relief trip to Haiti with my mom, but then (assistant coach Steve Forbes) recommended me for this team and it all fell into place. It's a great opportunity, and I'm really looking forward to reaching out to the people of China."

McBee will maintain a blog of his experiences for throughout the duration of his trip. He has previously made numerous mission trips to Belize, but that is his only experience traveling abroad.

"This is a great opportunity for Skylar to be involved in a couple of things he's really passionate about," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Obviously the chance to compete internationally in basketball will provide some great training, but equally as important is Skylar's desire to witness and minister.

"It's something that will be extremely rewarding for him as well as a source of pride for his family."

The U.S. Sports Reach team will be coached by Nevada assistant coach Dennis Gates. In addition to McBee—a former standout at Grainger County High School whose clutch 3-pointer sealed UT's upset win over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Kansas on Jan. 10—the roster also features guard Brandon Barnes (Lipscomb), forward Carlton Fay (Southern Illinois), forward/center Josh Harrelson (Kentucky), guard Jon Hood (Kentucky), center Sean Kowal (Northern Illinois), forward Steffphon Pettigrew (Western Kentucky), guard Xavier Silas (Northern Illinois), guard Peyton Siva (Louisville), guard Malik Story (Nevada) and forward Jeremy Williams (UTEP).

Six of the squad's nine games will be played against one of the top professional teams in China, the Bayi Army Rockets.

"(Skylar's) shooting ability will be a big plus," Sports Reach co-founder Robby Speer said. "Shooting the ball from the 3-point line is critical when playing the teams we will play. We won't be as big as the Bayi team, so we must shoot it well. Skylar will see some great competition that should help him as he gets ready for the upcoming season."

Speer is an ordained minister who has traveled to 15 different countries leading sports mission trips over the past 23 years. He co-founded Sports Reach in 1986 along with Larry Pursiful.

"Skylar is such a fine Christian young man," Speer added. "He is such a ‘team guy,' and that is always an important part of such a trip. He has a very infectious personality that will allow him to have a great impact on the people he comes in contact with overseas."

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