China's NBA prospect Yi Jianlian was happy to see national team buddy Sun Yue at a pre-Draft training camp in Orlando on Wednesday, and Sun will be hoping that this won't be the last time they share a court in the United States.
His club, Beijing Aoshen Olympians, has announced the 22-year-old is set to enter the 2007 NBA Draft on June 28.
"This is just a try for me," Sun, who arrived at the camp on Tuesday, was quoted as saying by Sina.com. "I am not a high pick so I don't have any pressure.
The 2.06m point guard, optimistically dubbed "China's Magic Johnson" by domestic media, was linked as an entry for the 2006 draft on two NBA draft websites, but withdrew at the last minute.
"We did not let Sun go last year because it was not the best timing for him," club owner Zang Changhong was quoted as saying. "I think this year is a great chance for him. Take a look at his game, you know how much he has improved over the past two years. He is getting stronger mentally and physically and I am sure he is already capable of dealing with the pressure like this."
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) also gave approval for the move as Sun fits the rule that Chinese players are not eligible for the NBA Draft until they turn 22.
"We always support our players joining high-quality overseas leagues," CBA vice-president Hu Jiashi said yesterday.
Sun, who averaged 13.5 points and six assists last season, led Aoshen to a best-ever third place finish in the American Basketball Association (ABA). He also made the league's All-star Game and Team of the Year.
Sun was recruited by national team coach Jonas Kazlauskas in 2005 and has averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 assists in his 22 games for the country including the World Championships in Japan and Doha Asian Games. His best showing with the national side was a 22-point performance against Uzbekistan at the Asian Games.
Despite his limited international success, Sun's presence in Orlando has been noted by US scouts. Leading draft website Draftexpress.com ranks him No 14 among international players in the draft while Draftnet.com predicts he will be picked in 58th position out of 150 prospects by the San Antonio Spurs.
"Yue is a very unique player in this draft, being a very long 6-9 international who shows legitimate point guard skills," reported Draftexpress.com. "Already an excellent passer, he takes advantage of his size to see the entire floor thanks to his impressive court vision. Also he displayed solid athleticism.
"But he looks far from becoming an adequate shooter. He doesn't show any reliability, delivering awful jumpers from time to time. He's probably not quick enough for a point guard and he doesn't have the shooting touch that you look for in a wing."
Sun is the latest Chinese basketball talent looking to follow in Yao Ming's giant footsteps and gain NBA stardom, but there is no guarantee of success.
Menk Bateer and Wang Zhizhi, the other two towers in China's NBA "Great Wall," struggled to make an impression.
Wang ended a four-year American stay last year and now plays for Bayi Rockets in the CBA, while Bateer also returned home after his stays with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.
Yi Jianlian is expected to be a lottery pick in this year's draft, considered the strongest in years, and some experts believe he could go as high as 3rd.
Source: China Daily