The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) announced yesterday that Yi Jianlian, dubbed China's "next Yao Ming", would not be joining the NBA Draft this year.
The 2.1-metre forward, who plays for the Guangdong Tigers in China's premier basketball league has been linked to a possible move to the NBA in the United States.
Yi had been listed on two US websites as one of the prospects for this year's draft.
"The Guangdong Tigers has decided to give up Yi's chance to the draft and the CBA will support their decision," said CBA vice-president Hu Jiashi.
"The club consulted some experts and believed his chance in the NBA would be quite limited. It is China's premier league and the national team that are able to give him more space for self-development," Hu said.
Yi has led the Guangdong Tigers to win their third consecutive national championship last week, beating China's powerhouse Bayi Rockets 4-1.
Described as a new Yao Ming by the American media, Yi was widely known as the best basketball player in the national league.
He played at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 but failed to live up to people's expectations with a modest performance.
"I see myself as a national team member," he said last week. "After all, I haven't yet reached NBA standard."
According to Hu, the CBA has yet to make any regulations on Chinese players' seeking entry into the NBA.
Along with Yi, two other Chinese players have seen access into the NBA.
Twenty-year-old Sun Yue played for Beijing Aoshen in the ABA League in the US last season was also listed by the NBA Draft.
And 23-year-old centre Tang Zhengdong is taking a NBA training camp in the US.
The NBA draft will take place at the end of June.
Three Chinese players have played in the NBA in its history.
But apart from Yao, the NBA experiences of Menk Bateer and Wang Zhizhi, the other two towers in China's NBA "Great Wall," were far under par.
Wang, troubled by his association with the CBA, was sacked after failing to join the national team during the Asian Games in 2002.
Bateer returned to the Chinese league after being sacked by the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.
The Chinese men's basketball team will compete in Tokyo's World Championships this September and the Asian Games in December.
It is expected that the national team roster will be released in early May.
Source: China Daily