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US ex-Olympic coach: Yao Ming is good, but Chinese team is low
( 2003-09-14 11:52) (Xinhua)

Chinese NBA star Yao Ming can not represent the general level of the Chinese basketball, U.S. former Olympic coach Joseph Wright said here on Saturday.

Wright, a NCAA committee member, is in Beijing at the invitation of the Chinese Basketball Association to lecture the Chinese coaching seminar.

The former Seattle SuperSonics player hailed Yao as an excellent and very promising player, but cautiously indicated that the Chinese sensation's achievement itself did not mean that the general level of the Chinese basketball has gone that high.

"But they can serve as the catalyst. They can serve as a good beginning," Wright told Xinhua, referring to the 2.24-meter (7-foot-6) Houston Rockets center, and his national teammate Menk Bateer, who played with NBA's San Antonio Spurs last season.

Wright, who played for the Seattle Supersonics in 1972 and 1974, also believed China has yet to reach its highest level.

"China now only have individual players who have done well, but no team...when you have top two or three teams which can present themselves well in the world, when that happens, then you can say the Chinese basketball has arrived," said Wright.

Wright was the chief assistant to head coach Bob Knight when the American men's basketball team, featuring Michael Jordan's debut on the national squad, won the gold medal at the Los Angels Olympic Games in 1984.

The 53-year-old, however, thought Yao and Bateer do say something for Chinese basketball and have created a lot of world-wide interest.

"They can help. They have already got impact since they're playing in NBA, because they are so famous. When they walk into a room or a school, people would respond to them.

"So they are very important to get people's interest, people's involvement in basketball," he said.

Yao, the top pick in the 2002 NBA draft, was voted runner-up to Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire for the NBA Rookie of the Year. He averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds a game in his first NBA season.

Bateer, as a free-agent center, signed with the Toronto Raptors for a two-year contract in July after averaging less than one point and one rebound in 12 games with the Spurs last season.

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