VETERAN Wang Zhizhi believes China faces a difficult task of retaining the Fiba-Asia Championship this year.
The 36-year-old Wang, the first Chinese player to play in the NBA, said bigger and stronger teams now stand in the way of China's bid to retain the title it won one home soil by beating Jordan in the final two years ago.
“It’s more difficult right now,” said Wang in a brief chat with a handful of reporters at the team hotel. “There are a lot of strong teams. We need to play better.”
In a way, Wang has gone full circle as he will be playing in the Fiba-Asia Championship for the last time in Manila, the same place where he suited up for China in the Asian juniors championship 18 years earlier.
Chinese officials said on Tuesday they are getting ready for a transition from Wang's generation to a younger team in the next few years. (For full story, see Wang, Liu near farewell as mighty China prepares for changing of the guard)
Wang has fond memories of Manila.
“I’ve come to Manila a lot of times starting in 1995. It was a long time ago, almost 18 years. I have a lot of Filipino friends in here. Thanks to the Filipino fans,” said Wang.
The former Dallas Maverick also has a few good things to say about the Philippine team, although he admits that he knows little about the pro-backed Gilas Pilipinas squad that will see action this year.
“Last Asian championship, they are a good team. I don’t know this year,” said Wang.