China has not had a player in the NBA since the infamous Chairman Yi and fresh Hall of fame inductee Yao Ming, but it looks like the absence of Chinese players in the elite basketball league could be at an end with the arrival of 20-year-old 7’2 big man Zhou Qi.
On June 10, Zhou’s agent declared that Zhou has reached a buyout agreement with Xinjiang Flying Tigers. The agreement states that Zhou will join the NBA in 2016 if he is selected in the first round. If Zhou does not make it in the first round, he will stay with Flying Tigers till the end of 2017 season.
Zhou participated in the Chicago Combine last month and received universal acclaim from scouts and managers for his outstanding shooting touch, agile footwork and most importantly, ridiculous wingspan at 7’7. 75’’ – the largest of the 2016 class.
Zhou’s length and offensive tools have attracted the attention of multiple NBA teams including the Celtics, Suns and Grizzlies. The Chinese basketball association, the notorious institution that destroyed the NBA career of Yao and Wang Zhizhi, has been uncharacteristically supportive of Zhou’s draft process.
Zhou Qi, 20 years old (China), unofficially has largest wingspan (7'7.75") + standing reach (9'4.5") at '16 combine pic.twitter.com/lJHhEbvojz
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) May 11, 2016
Zhou was given permission to workout for NBA teams until May 24 before returning for the Chinese national team summer training camp. The manager of Chinese national team Chai says, “We will have a gathering on the draft day and celebrate for Zhou. I have total faith in Zhou; he has the ability to be selected in the first round.”
Despite all the positives, there still seems to be plenty of bumps on Zhou’s road to the stardom. Zhou’s skinny stature of 219 pounds has raised concerns among many that he is not ready to make an immediate impact in the physical competition of NBA.
Would Zhou be the next big thing out of China? The world will know on June 24.
By Li Chong