After a long wait, Chinese basketball fans may finally get to see one of their own playing in the NBA again with 2016 second rounder Zhou Qi reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal to play in Houston, where he will have some rather large shoes to fill.
With a nice shooting touch, mobile feet and a ridiculous 7-8 wingspan, Zhou is China’s next great hope on the hardwood. While he’s certainly no Yao Ming, ahead of last year’s draft Zhou was considered an intriguing big with clear potential and a high upside by most scouts and was selected 42nd overall.
For now, what is holding Zhou back is his skinny frame. Standing at 7-2, he weighed in at just 218lbs last year. The 22-year-old has been playing for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers for the last three seasons where he has put up encouraging if not spectacular numbers. By signing him up, the Rockets hope to get him into the weight room and speed up his development. He’s expected to play at the Las Vegas Summer League later this month.
In Houston, Zhou will, of course, be stepping into the giant shadow left by Yao, while also being weighed down by the hopes of the Chinese nation. No Chinese player has played in the NBA since 2012 when Yi Jianlian fled back to Guangdong, a fact that NBA commissioner Adam Silver decried before Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
“It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA right now,” Silver said. “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world.”
We’ll be rooting for the “Big Devil King.”
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