EVEN with a solid roster anchored on NBA veteran forward Yi Jianlian, Chinese basketball officials said they are already preparing for a “changing of the guards” to give way to a new generation of players.
China team manager Zhang Xiong said Asia's top basketball power can't afford to stand still considering several other Asian countries are making giant strides in the sport the Chinese have dominated since 1975.
“We are looking forward in the next couple years to change (the roster) to a younger generation of players to replace the veterans,” Zhang told Spin.ph shortly after the Fiba-Asia men’s championship press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday.
China has won 15 of the last 19 stagings of the Fiba-Asia men’s championships, including the 2011 edition in Wuhan, China, which saw the Chinese squeak past the Jordan national team in the gold medal round.
Zhang also paid tribute to China’s “senior citizens” led by the 36-year-old center Wang Zhizhi and 33-year-old point guard Liu Wei, who are back for another tour of duty along with NBA vetean Yi.
“The experience they have is something is that irreplaceable that is why we need their experience to help the younger players more,” added Zhang.
Wang, the first Chinese to ever be drafted in the NBA in 2001 via the Dallas Mavericks, has led China to Asian Games gold medals in 1998 (Bangkok, Thailand), 2006 (Doha, Qatar) and 2010 (Guangzhou, China).
He also played a key role for the Chinese’s bronze medal finish in the 1997 Fiba-Asia championship, gold medal finishes in 1999 (Fukuoka, Japan) and 2011 (Wuhan, China) as well as a silver medal finish in 2009 (Tianjin, China).
On the other hand, Liu has been a key member of the Chinese national team that played in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Fiba World championships as well as the Olympics in 2004 (Athens, Greece) and 2008 (Beijing, China).