27 September 2011

China search for next Yao


Washington Wizard forward Yi Jianlian has emerged as China’s main man in the post-Yao Ming era, leading his country to a 15th Asian championship with a series of formidable performances.
But the 23-year-old is not the only player that has taken the opportunity to seize a slice of the spotlight after Houston Rocket Yao, a hero to hundreds of millions of basketball-mad Chinese, announced his retirement in July.
Besides anchoring Team China on both ends of the floor, Yi calmly knocked down the winning free throw with 28 seconds left in the Asian final on Sunday against Jordan, sending the passionate home town crowd in Wuhan into a frenzy.
The seven-foot (2.12-meter) Yi had 26 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots as China beat an unfancied Jordan 70-69 in the gold-medal game, securing a coveted berth to the 2012 London Olympics.
China went undefeated in nine games behind the dominating play of Yi, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Yi “brings an intensity at a high level, as well as an incredible skill set both inside and out and he loves to play defence. I’m lucky to coach him,’’ China’s American coach Bob Donewald said.
Former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi, 32, remains a force with his deadly outside shooting and veteran savvy, while a group of youngsters will be called on for London.
China have represented Asia at every Olympic basketball tournament since 1976, but have never finished higher than eighth place against the more powerful teams from the Americas and Europe.
“Obviously they are not as good as they are with Yao, they are a formidable team, but Yao makes them a lot better,’’ Japan’s American coach Tom Wisman told AFP.
“They have some great young talent, there are some big guys here in China, but they need development, offensive-skill wise.’’
For Donewald, China’s youth drive begins with Sun Yue, 25, who won an NBA championship in 2009 during a brief benchwarming stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, and who has grown to become a key scorer and defender for Team China.
“Sun Yue is having a great tournament, he is playing the best basketball of his career,’’ Donewald said before Sunday’s final showdown.
“He’s maturing, the game has slowed for him, he can see everything out there on the floor… in the next four or five years you are just going to see some outstanding basketball from him.’’
Gangly 2.02-meter forward Yi Li, 23, also showed he will be a force for China, most impressively when he attacked the basket Sunday and slammed home a powerful tomahawk dunk to give China a 69-66 lead with two minutes left.
“I told Yi Li before this thing started ‘you are going to be our secret weapon in this tournament’ and he has had some really big games,’’ Donewald said.

Source: Tempo News Flash

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