CAN China’s 19-year old center Wang Zhelin be the next Yao Ming?
Ravaged by injuries to its key players and in need of young blood, the Chinese national team at the 27th Fiba-Asia Championships in Manila, certainly hopes so.
The seven-foot center said he's been working closely with veteran Chinese stars Wang Zhizhi and the injured Yi Jianlian as he embraces his role as the future of the longtime Asian basketball superpower.
Judging from Wang's performance in China's first five games at the Mall of Asia Arena, the 19-year-old Fujian native has the potential to live up to such giant expectations.
Observers praise Wang's sound post-move and quickness for his size but maintain he needs to add bulk to his spry 250 lb. frame in order to hold his own against heftier players such as two-time Fiba-Asia MVP Hamed Haddadi of Iran, the barometer among big men in this year’s tournament.
"I'm getting better after each game … every game is a good experience. And whatever coach (Panagiotis Giannakis) tells me to do, I execute," said Wang after China’s win over India.
Wang showed the way in China's 79-45 demolition of the Indians with a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and three steals in 27 minutes of action.
The soft-spoken Chinese center said he's fortunate to have fellow 7-footers Wang and Yi guide him as his role in China's national team expands.
"I've learned a lot from them, from the veterans on the court and off the court. I talk to older players and ask them what to do in the game," added the teenager, seen as a possible prospect in the 2014 NBA draft.
If all goes according to plan and barring any major injuries, Wang is sure to play a major role in China's bid for a 16th Asian championship that would assure a return trip to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.