Chinese basketball player Wang Zhizhi returned home from the United States on Monday after being expelled from the national team for four years.
Wang, the first Asian to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) when he joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2001, was welcomed by the Chinese basketball top officials at the Beijing International Airport on Monday morning.
"I realized I had made a big mistake (for refusing to return). I want to say sorry to my fans and to the Bayi team which trained me and gave me the chance to play in the NBA," Wang said, according to a press release of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
The Dallas Mavericks drafted Wang on the 36th in the second round in 1999, and signed him with a three-year rookie contract on March 29, 2001.
Wang played the Asian Championships and the World University Games after his first season in the NBA and returned to Dallas in November, 2002.
He never returned to China since then.
The 29-year-old center/forward refused to join the summer camp of the Chinese national team for the World Championships in 2002, and did not play in the WC in Indiannapolis, the United States in August.
As an army official of the Bayi Rockets military team, Wang failed to live up to his words with the Mavericks, the CBA and the Chinese military to play the major international competitions for China during the offseason of the NBA.
He was expelled from the Chinese national squad after he refused to come back for the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, in October, 2002.
"I was too young to make the right decision. I hope I could make up my fault this time and win back my place in the national team," Wang said.
The 2001 Asian Best Basketball Player has met CBA vice president Li Yuanwei in the United States in Febuarary three times to discuss his reture.
"It's a crucial move for him to return in an answer to the motherland's call. He has enough time to re-unite with his parents and friends in China, and think about how to start a new future here," the CBA said in its statement.
It is not yet decided whether Wang could re-join the national team though he is badly needed to play in the World Championships in August in Japan and in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"Wang is a great basketball player of NBA quality and has the willingness to play for China. It depends on his mental and physical conditions that whether he could be recruited into the national squad," the CBA said.
Wang's wife and a daughter remain staying in the Los Angeles.