Max Zhang (Zhang Zhaoxu, 张兆旭) is leaving the NCAA for the CBA, according to has opted not to finish his last two years on the UC-Berkeley basketball team, according to reports from Sina.com (in Chinese) and Oakland Tribune reporter Jeff Faraudo, writing at Bear Talk, which follows Cal sports. Instead of returning to the Golden Bears, where he was set to be the first big man off the bench, Zhang has reportedly signed a contract with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The Sharks are owned by Yao Ming and coached by Bob Donewald, who also coaches the Chinese National Team. Zhang has been in China for a couple of months playing for Donewald in warm-ups for the Asian Games, and was recently selected to the country’s Asian Games squad. No reports have come out about his salary with the Sharks, but Sina reported that the Xinjiang Snow Leopards, one of the league’s best teams in the past few years, offered him 2 million RMB, or about $294,000.
It’s hard to see how this is a good decision for Max Zhang. He averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds at Cal last year. The 7-foot 2-inch center clearly still has a lot to learn, and the competition and training he would get in the NCAA would make him a better player. And Zhang’s earning potential as a basketball player is limited, so turning his back on a free education from a top American university seems like a bad idea.
According to Faraudo’s report, Zhang’s coach at Cal is very disappointed:
“He signed, he’s done,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said after the team’s open practice Wednesday night. “We were getting unclear messages. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s water under the bridge. This is our team.”
Max Zhang image: Baidu
Tags: basketball, CBA, Max Zhang, NCAA, Zhang Zhaoxu