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China's head coach Du Feng demands grit from youngsters

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-06-23 15:20
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BEIJING - Du Feng, head coach of the Chinese men's basketball team, has expressed his hope that young players can be unafraid in overcoming difficulties and dare to challenge themselves.

China finished the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers with four wins in a row. Du shed light on his young players' progress and problems when reviewing the team's campaign.

"We gave some minutes to all young players in four matches, and let them understand the style of Asian basketball at the current stage," said Du in a video clip posted on the team's social media account late on Tuesday.

Du took charge of the Chinese team on October 31, 2019, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asia Cup qualifiers were his side's first international appearance in almost 20 months.

He thought the team handled the pressure well when playing against Japan and rallied past opponents on June 19, and the comeback victory was crucial in helping develop the team's mentality.

"We have a lot of problems," admitted Du. "Young players lacked the ability to read the game and discover opportunities, and they were not used to the difference in physical competitiveness between the domestic league and international matches."

Like what he did in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) club Guangdong Southern Tigers, Du employed a rotational substitution tactic at a certain stage with an aim to involve more players in the matches.

"Many of our players are debutants in the national team and international competitions, and they have met some challenges. For me, this is a new group, and we need to fit each other."

Du praised some young players, including Hu Mingxuan, Xu Jie, Zhao Yanhao, Lu Wenbo, Zhang Zhenlin and Liu Chuanxing, for their performance at different stages, while adding they are far from living up to competing at international level.

"The team's transition has just begun, and young players have a gap from veterans in passing on the national team's traditions. It cannot be bridged in a short term and calls for a long-term and systematic solution.

"I hope they are not afraid of difficulties in this process and dare to challenge themselves. They need to persevere in difficulties and setbacks and have confidence in overcoming this. I believe through concerted efforts, this new team will become better and better," commented Du.

Talking about the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament, where team China will face Canada and Greece, Du has hinged hope on his players, even though "everyone knows it's almost a mission impossible (to qualify for the Olympics)."

"Canada and Greece are top-class teams in the world, and we have a huge gap from them. Hopefully our young team can challenge these powerhouses, face up to weaknesses, showcase characteristics and fighting spirit. From technical and tactical aspects, we will work harder, make improvements and fight for long-term goals," he said.

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