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Chinese primed for Summer League shot

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-27 08:40

Hopefuls set to face some of NBA's top prospects

A Chinese team's participation in the NBA Summer League is triggering expectations on the rise of the nation's next NBA prospect.

With big-name foreign stars packing up for routine visits to China in the offseason, a contingent of homegrown players are heading in the opposite direction, aiming to hone their skills in the Summer League, which tips off on July 6 and continues through July 17 at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.

Team Red from China's dual-squad national program will join the tournament-style competition as an added entry after its FIBA World Cup qualifier against New Zealand on July 1, Tencent reported on Tuesday.

A record number of Chinese players will be involved in the competition, which also marks the second time a Chinese national squad will participate. Team China played in the 2007 Summer League to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Team Red's entry is part of the reform masterminded by Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming to separate the national program into two teams with independent coaching staff in order to double their international exposure.

Apart from Team Red, Ding Yanyuhang, Abdusalam Abdurishit and Zhou Qi will represent China with the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets respectively, aiming to earn contracts for next season or, in Zhou's case, enough minutes off the bench to make Houston's regular-season roster.

The dogfight nature of the tournament, in which rookies, undrafted players and international prospects jostle to prove their worth, will make the intensity high enough for his compatriots to struggle, said Ding, who suited up for the Dallas Mavericks in last year's Summer League.

"It's where NBA dreams can be realized - but in a hard way," said Ding, who gave up a non-guaranteed contract offered by Dallas last summer to return to the CBA for more quality minutes.

The 24-year-old forward, who represented China at the 2016 Rio Olympics, averaged 6.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game in 11 appearances for the Mavs in last year's Summer League.

A versatile scorer and tough defender on the wing, Ding has dominated the CBA after winning back-to-back MVP honors in 2017 and '18 while playing for the Shandong Gold Lions.

"Everybody is hostile there, and that's what makes it an invaluable drill for players to improve. Hopefully, I can perform better this year to make a stronger statement," said Ding, who has been training in the US for six weeks.

Abdusalam, an ethnic Uyghur who plays for Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA, worked out for eight teams before the NBA Draft but wasn't selected. Still, the 22-year-old forward's long-range shooting, combined with agility and size (6-foot-8) make him an intriguing NBA prospect if properly developed, said a report on The Athletic.com.

"I will make the best of this opportunity to improve all possible aspects of my game and not just fight for a future NBA spot but better serve my country in international competition," he said.

According to the Warriors' schedule, on July 9, Abdusalam could potentially face fellow center Zhou, who signed with the Rockets last July but mainly played for Houston's G-League team last season.

Zhou, who struggled to get used to the NBA's pace and physicality in his rookie year, has been working with Houston's trainers to improve his strength and skills to fight for a more prominent role on the Rockets' bench roster next season.

sunxiaochen@chinadaily.com.cn

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