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Li chasing her WNBA dream with Mystics tryout

By SUN XIAOCHEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-03-15 09:07
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Chinese national team forward Li Meng has signed a preseason deal with WNBA outfit the Washington Mystics.

Supported by the agency of her idol LeBron James, Chinese national team star Li Meng has taken a step toward realizing her WNBA dream after securing a preseason training camp spot with the Washington Mystics.

The Mystics announced on Monday that the organization has signed Li to a training camp contract, which will at least keep the prolific forward with the franchise until the 2023 regular season tips off on May 19.

If she impresses enough over the next two months, Li can expect to be offered a spot on the Mystics'12-player regular-season roster and realize her long-held dream of hooping in the world's best league.

"Li Meng is the premier scorer for the Chinese national team — an outstanding perimeter player who has the ability to stretch the floor with her excellent 3-point shooting," Mystics general manager Mike Thibault said in a statement released on the team's website.

"She reads the game and uses screens well and knows how to play off her teammates. She adds more size, strength and toughness to our guard group. Our players will enjoy playing with her."

Standing 1.82-meter tall with bulk and agility, the 28-year-old Li is known for her sharp shooting on the perimeter, ball-handling skills and aggressive attacks to the rim, which make her a complete weapon on the offensive end. At last year's FIBA Women's World Cup, she contributed a fourth-best tournament average of 16 points and 2.5 assists per game to help Team China claim a record-tying silver medal.

During the best-of-three WCBA finals last week, Li averaged 21.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and a team-high 8.7 assists to help Sichuan Yuanda beat Inner Mongolia Nongxin, 2-1, to claim the franchise's first domestic league title.

Li expressed her excitement at the Washington move in a statement posted on her Weibo account on Tuesday.

"Finally I have the chance to realize my dream after trying for several years," said Li, who had turned down WNBA calls in the past due to national team responsibilities.

"Appreciate the recognition and invitation from the Mystics organization and thanks to the Chinese Basketball Association, my agent and the Chinese embassy in the United States for supporting me to chase my dream.

"I will work as hard as I can during my stay in the US to elevate my game in the WNBA and pay back my country with better performances for the national team.

"Hopefully, I can bring more attention from Asia and China to the WNBA."

Li also announced in the post that she's signed with Klutch Sports Group, a Los Angeles-based sports agency founded by NBA superstar James' longtime partner Rich Paul. Klutch Sports contributed to Li's WNBA recruitment together with her Chinese agency.

Should Li secure a regular-season contract, she would become the third Chinese player — along with national teammates Han Xu (New York Liberty) and Yang Liwei (Los Angeles Sparks) — to suit up in the WNBA.

Han, a towering center at 2.07 meters tall and the WCBA Finals MVP also representing Sichuan, last month re-signed with the Liberty, which picked her 14th overall in the 2019 draft, before the Sparks signed undrafted playmaker Yang, a veteran guard on China's national squad.

The Washington Mystics tip off the 2023 season at home on May 19, with a potential Chinese derby against the Liberty.

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