China's top young basketball talent Yi Jianlian has finally been given
the green light to enter the NBA, after his club agreed to release the
player to the 2007 NBA Draft
Guangdong Baomashi Club officially announced yesterday that Yi could go
at the end of the season.
"This is a great opportunity and also a test for me," said the
The 19-year-old, dubbed the "next Yao Ming", was linked as an entry for
the 2006 draft on two NBA draft websites, but his club would not give him
"We did not let Yi join the 2006 draft because it was not the best
timing for him," said the club's general-manager Chen Haitao. "But now he
is different, he is getting stronger mentally and physically. I think next
year will be a big chance for him, so for us, it's time to let him go."
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is likely to give approval to
the move despite a rule that Chinese players are not eligible for the NBA
Draft until they turn 22.
"We always support our players in joining high-quality overseas
leagues," CBA vice-president Hu Jiashi said yesterday.
Yi, who averaged 20.5 points and 9.6 rebounds last season, has led Guangdong to
three consecutive national championships. This season the club is on top
of the standings once again, with 10 wins and one loss.
Yi competed at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and was a mainstay at
the World Championships in Japan in August.
Despite the team's limited international success, Yi is highly rated by
US scouts. Leading draft
website NBADraft.net predicts the teenager will be picked in 11th position
next year in a strong draft, Meanwhile probasketball.about.com lists him
fourth spot out of 150 prospects, a place higher than NCAA superstar
Joakim Noah, who helped Florida University to the national championships
"I am not as excited as people expect," said Yi. "It is too early to
predict my future in the NBA, because I am still improving all the time.
"For me, what I care about most now is winning another title for my
club and also getting the gold medal at the Asian Games this year."