ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): It’s not one, but two giants that China’s rivals have to worry about at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship starting in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) on Friday have to worry about with both Wang Zhelin and Zhou Qi appearing for the nine-time gold medalists.
Seldom have we seen youngsters go into a FIBA Asia U18 Championship with pre-event anticipation, and this time around it’s a double bonanza for the fans with these two appearing for China.
Wang Zhelin (right in the pic above), it may be recalled was left out of the Chinese roster for 2012 London Olympics only in the final cut, and even travelled with the team to Poland for the final set of preparatory games. His credentials therefore are beyond question.
In both his previous two international competitions, Wang Zhelin – as can be expected – returned double-figure averages.
At the 21st FIBA Asia Championship at Sana’A (Yemen) in 2010, Wang Zhelin returned averages of 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game as China swept all their nine games by convincing margins en route to winning the gold medal.
A year later, at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship at Latvia, the 215-cm center averaged 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.
And his growth in ability and prowess has only grown in time.
Zhou Qi belongs to a younger group of talent, but is no less than Wang Zhelin in his qualifications to the “next Yao” race.
Zhou Qi, cut his teeth at the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) last year and caught the eye of the discerning immediately.
There certainly were talks if this 217-cm Liaoning youngster was better than what even the great Yao Ming was at this age. There was very little challenge for Zhou Qi on the court, and therefore talking of his statistics at Nha Trang is more a disservice to him.
But earlier this year, Zhou showed his prowess to the world at the 2012 FIBA World U17 World Championship at Kaunas (Lithuania), when he averaged 14 points and 10.1 rebounds per game returning double-doubles in three games as China went on to make the quarterfinals.
In the past the presence of one of the two – either Wang or Zhou – has been good enough for China to virtually steamroll every opposition. Now with both available in his disposal, it will be interesting to see how Wang Huaiyu manages the court time for each.
These two youngsters, for sure, hold the key to China’s – nay FIBA Asia – basketball’s future!