Courting the stars of the future

Updated: 2014-10-16 07:27

By Xu Jingxi(China Daily)

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Courting the stars of the future
Retired NBA allstar player Glen Rice shows a Chinese youngster how to shoot during a visit to the NBA Yao School in Beijing in September. WEI XIAOHAO / CHINA DAILY 

"In the US, physical education is a fundamental part of school education. Those students who are interested in basketball have plenty of time to practice after school. There are also professional coaches on campus to train them, and the students have abundant opportunities to improve their skills in school tournaments at all levels," he said.

Making Yao Ming's dream a reality

By Xu Jingxi

David Shoemaker, CEO of NBA China, has vivid memories of the day in 2011 when Yao Ming announced his retirement.

Shoemaker was busy answering phone calls from friends and families who asked him if he regretted taking the job in China, when the announcement came through, just a month after he started in his new role.

"But I attended his (Yao's) retirement ceremony and listened very carefully to his words and he was thoughtful in what he said. He said, 'I'm leaving the court but not the game'," Shoemaker said, during a round-table forum with reporters in Shanghai on Friday.

"And from that moment, Yao committed himself to working to develop the game for young boys and girls. We have formed a partnership to develop the game for all of China. And I think that's played a nice and very large role in how we are able to maintain the momentum (of Yao's influence) right through his retirement and in the foreseeable future."

During the same forum, Adam Silver, the NBA's commissioner, said: "Yao Ming has shared with us that it's his dream that boys and girls throughout China can play basketball for fun and fitness rather than just to bring honor to the country."

"I personally share Yao Ming's dream that basketball can be enjoyed by people throughout China, especially boys and girls, as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

In 2012, NBA China and Yao announced the partnership, which aims to develop youth basketball and conduct community outreach programs. The NBA Yao School provides after-school basketball training and fitness programs for boys and girls aged 16 and younger at all skill levels.

"(NBA) China games are only a very small part of our business here. For example, the NBA Yao School, which we began in Beijing last year, is something we hope to grow throughout China. We will bring it to Shanghai next year," Silver said.

To assist the development of elite young Chinese players, the NBA has brought in top-notch coaches and trainers, and, along with the CBA, has also established a joint coaching program that has trained nearly 780 Chinese coaches so far.

"My advice (on the development of Chinese basketball) would be that patience is necessary. It will take time to develop a true basketball culture," Silver said. "I also think it's necessary that we increase participation among all boys and girls, not just those players specially designated as 'being tall'."

In addition, NBA Cares, the league's global social responsibility program, has built 45 spaces where children and families can live, learn, and play, in eight cities across the country.

During their trip to China for the NBA Global Games, the Sacramento Kings visited a "play and learn" center at the Shanghai Violet Migrant School on Oct 11, and the Brooklyn Nets conducted a basketball clinic for deaf-mute children in Beijing on Tuesday. 

"By contrast, PE is just another class in China, and students are burdened with a heavy study load after school. We also have high school and university basketball tournaments here in China, but the tournaments are not widespread and the coaching is not professional," he added.

He pointed out that most of the players in the CBA went to schools that specialize in sports training, and they entered the league directly after graduation from high school. Fewer than 100 studied at college and played in Chinese University Basketball Association games before advancing into the CBA.

"The former group may play better than the latter at the early stage because of the intensive skill training they have received since childhood, but their deficiency in understanding basketball as a team sport will gradually show," he said.

That may explain why Chinese youth basketball teams give strong performances but the adult team remains weak.

"Moreover, the mindset that 'winning is everything' has bred foul play in some provincial youth basketball teams, which alter their players' ages to make them appear younger so they will have an advantage in the younger-age category," Zhang Qing said.

Rule change

The US National Basketball Association, the world's premier basketball league, changed the rule relating to draft age in 2006, in the hope that after playing in National Collegiate Athletic Association games, younger players would be better prepared mentally and physically for the fierce competition in the NBA.

The 2006 draft stated that players would not be eligible to enter the draft immediately after graduating from high school. Instead, players became eligible for draft selection a year after high school graduation, and must also be at least 19 years old by the end of the calendar year of the draft.

DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings' center and a member of the US men's national team that won the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, spent a season playing for the University of Kentucky before he was drafted by the Kings in 2010.

He told China Daily that the experience of playing in the NCAA was an important step for him prior to playing at a higher level in the NBA.

"It (playing in the NCAA) helps you grow to be a better person, helps you understand the game better, helps you realize that it's not just about you. In high school, it's usually the way that you just go out there and do whatever you want," he said.

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