[ 2007-04-11 11:02 ]
|China's basketball star Yi Jianlian signs autographs for basketball fans during
the send-off to him in Shenzhen of South China's Guangdong Province April
11, 2007. The three-time CBA title winner will leave for the United States
tonight to attend a pre-Draft training camp in Los Angeles.
Yi Jianlian's domestic basketball
career ended in the disappointment of a playoff finals defeat, but China's
hottest sporting talent is ready to put the past behind him and begin his NBA
The 19-year-old sensation, who won three champions rings in
China, will leave for the United States tonight to attend a pre-Draft training camp in Los Angeles. With a high draft position
all but certain he appears set to follow in the giant footsteps of Houston
Rockets' All-star Center Yao Ming.
"I want to walk my own road," said Yi, a 19-year-old, 2.13 meter power
forward who idolized Michael Jordan as a child. "The NBA is my dream place, so
this is obviously the biggest challenge of my life. But I am not going to be the
next Yao Ming or Wang Zhizhi. I want to do it my way."
His size attracted the attention of scouts at a training camp in the US in 2002, and
since then he has impressed with his dunking ability and shooting touch.
Eight NBA general managers and executives came to China to watch Yi's
Guangdong Tigers take on Bayi Rockets in last month's CBA finals, and the NBA TV
provided live coverage.
Winning the league title has become an
auspicious way to say goodbye to the domestic league, so the 4-1 playoff loss
was a blow for Yi.
"This was the biggest disappointment in my life as I failed to make my CBA
memory perfect," Yi was quoted as saying in Basketball Pioneers newspaper. "I
want to use my NBA career as compensation for the loss. I really hope to shrug
it off as soon as possible."
Despite the Bayi defeat, Yi is still highly rated by US experts. Leading
draft website NBADraft.net predicts the teenager will be picked in 11th position
in a strong draft, while ESPN lists him in 6th.
The pressure on Yi will be intense, as media have already begun comparing him
to superstars including Dallas Maverick's Dirk Nowitzki and Toronto's Chris Bosh
due to the combination of his size, mobility and scoring.
But Yi is not letting the hype faze him.
"It doesn't really matter to me No 1 pick or last pick, the next Dirk or
Kevin Garnett," he said. "I know I've got to fight from zero and win my place on
my team. What I want most is more minutes from my coach, not being a first round
pick. I will need some time to get used to the intensity of games in the NBA."
pre-Draft training camp: