The 2015 NBA Draft just wrapped up earlier this morning with 13 international prospects chosen among the 60 picks, including players from countries like Spain, Macedonia and Latvia, but none coming from the most important basketball market outside of the United States.
Of course, this is far from unusual. Only 6 players born in China have made it to the NBA (and one of those was Renaissance man Tom Meschery, born in 1938 to Russian emigre parents who fled the October Revolution in 1917 and found their way to Harbin).
No Chinese player has played in the league since “The Chairman” Yi Jianlian left for the friendlier courts of southern China in 2012 after a disappointing NBA career. Basketball giant Yao Ming retired in 2011 due to chronic foot and ankle injuries. With no hometown kid to root for, Chinese fans have had to throw their support behind breakout star-turned- rapper Jeremy Lin, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in the mid-1970s, but it’s been a tough couple of years for Linsanity, who received 883,809 All-Star votes this season despite somehow managing to get benched by the Lakers.
But that doesn’t mean that China was completely absent from Thursday night’s festivities! With the seventh pick, the Denver Nuggets selected Emmanuel Mudiay, who bypassed college in America to play ball overseas in China for the perennial powerhouse Guangdong Southern Tigers. Mudiay had a injury-riddled season in Guangdong, but has received an endorsement from Chinese basketball icon Stephon Marbury.
The only Chinese prospect currently on the radars of NBA international scouts seems to be 19-year-old center Zhou Qi. Known as The Big Devil (大魔王), Zhou is 7-foot-2 tall, long-armed and quick on his feet. Unfortunately, even with the badass nickname, dude is only 209 pounds and is considered to still be at least a year away. But, remember the name! Or not. Who really knows?
There’s always next year.
by Alex Linder