Zhou Qi, carrying a championship cup and huge new expectations back to China.
That’s what Chinese sports media are calling Zhou Qi (周琦), after he carried China’s U16 basketball team to the championship at a youth tournament in Turkey earlier this week. Zhou’s breakout performance was in the semifinal against Germany – the 2.15-meter (7-foot) center poured in 41 points, grabbed 28 rebounds and swatted away 15 shots. Zhou had a little extra time to produce in that game, which went into three overtimes before China won, 94-90. He posted 30 points and 17 rebounds in a one-point win over Turkey in the final, and averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5.4 blocks over the course of the seven-game tournament.
“Why hasn’t China produced an NBA star since Yao Ming?” is one of the questions I get asked a lot. It’s usually a rhetorical question, followed up with a tally of all the flaws of Chinese basketball. It’s also a question that carries a greater sense of urgency now that Yao’s career is fading fast thanks to injuries.
Basketball writer Yang Yi of Titan Sports News is urging a little restraint (“Next Yao Ming” is a mistake), pointing out that the tournament was an invitational, not a marquee international event, and not a good gauge of how Zhou stacks up against the world’s best in his age group (assuming he is even really under 16). Yang also shares some less impressive Zhou statistics: He weighs 83 kilos (183 pounds) and can bench press a wimpy 40.5 (89 pounds).
See some Zhou highlights here (the Germany game) and here (the Turkey game).
Zhou Qi in the airport image: CQnews.com
Zhou in Turkey game image: sinaimag.cn
Tags: basketball, Yao Ming, Zhou Qi