NEW YORK, June 27 - China's Yi Jianlian, the 2-metre tall power forward who may be taken in the top-10 of Thursday's NBA Draft, is looking forward to playing against Houston's Chinese center Yao Ming.
"Sooner or later it's going to happen," Yi told reporters when asked on Wednesday if he had imagined playing against Yao.
"To me it's an expectation too. For two Chinese players to play on the same court in NBA games will be very meaningful to us," he said as more than 25 Chinese media members pressed close to hear his comments on the eve of the draft.
Yi, who has competed in the last five Chinese Basketball Association Finals and on three title-winning teams, said following the popular Houston Rockets center into the NBA would make his own journey both easier and more difficult.
"I look at it both ways," said Yi, wearing a dark pin-striped suit and checked sports shirt to a pre-draft news conference in a Manhattan hotel. "On one hand I think it makes my career in the NBA much easier.
"With Yao being in the NBA, the league as well as the people outside of China will have a better understanding of the way Chinese players play, and it paves the way for me to enter the NBA.
"On the other hand, the NBA is the fiercest competition. It is a highly competitive world."
The lanky forward is set to become the fourth Chinese player in NBA after Yao, Wang Zhizhi and Menk Bateer.
Yi has spent the last two months in the United States training and working out for various NBA teams to demonstrate his skills. He averaged 24.9 points and 11.5 rebounds against lesser competition in the CBA last season for Guandong.
Listed as 19-years-old but identified by some Chinese Web sites as being three years older, Li said he admires the playing style of NBA forwards such as Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzke and Kevin Garnett.
Asked if he hoped to play for a particular team, Yi said: "Of course there is a dream team I am thinking of but I can't tell you right now."