Former NBA point guard Jay Williams is aiming to relaunch his career through the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Williams, the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 NBA draft - behind Yao Ming, almost lost his life in a motorcycle accident a year later and his promising career appeared to be over.
However, with a healthy body, a stronger soul and a tattoo of a Chinese character which means "sacrifice" on his right ankle, Williams is aiming for the big time again.
"A lot of people thought I couldn't play anymore, but I still love the game. I'm passionate about it," the 27-year-old told China Daily in Changzhi, Shanxi province, where he led a group of American players in an exhibition match against Jiangsu Dragons, the champions of Lu'an Cup CBA Summer League on Sunday.
"This is a place where basketball is emerging and hopefully some day I can be part of it," Williams said. "I think the opportunity is out there, it's a great way for me to come back, to achieve my dream."
During the game, his quick moves, acute passes, sharp drives to the basket and game-tying shot with 0.9 seconds on the clock showed his career may be on the upturn again.
Han Shuo, the Dragons' point guard, struggled to defend Williams throughout the game and was impressed by what he saw from the former Duke guard.
"He is still great in the game, everyone can see his excellence though he has gone through so much pain," Han said after the match.
Han's view was shared by Bryan Gates, coach of the touring American team and an assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings
"I think he is really in good shape now. He moves quickly and makes amazing passes. What he needs is a chance to show he is still strong enough on the court," Gates said.
With a five-month season, booming market and a huge pool of fans, the CBA seems an ideal league for the point guard to ignite his engine again on the court.
However, not everyone was optimistic about Williams' potential, like Jason Rabedeaux, the head coach of Jiangsu.
"It has been more than six years since he (Williams) was full-season basketball player in a league. You know, it's a very long time."
Williams was a starter in the Bulls' line-up for most of the 2002-03 NBA season and showed great promise, including posting a triple-double in a win over his hometown New Jersey Nets. He played for the US national team at the 2002 FIBA World Championships.
However, on June 19, 2003, his life almost ended when he crashed his motorcycle in Chicago. Not wearing a helmet, Williams severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three ligaments in his left knee.
He was then waived by the Bulls. He attempted comebacks in NBA and National Basketball Development League in 2006 but both ended within three months.
After that, he was employed by CBS and then ESPN as an analyst for men's college basketball.
Though having been away from professional basketball for more than two years, he never gave up hope of returning to the NBA and started regular training eight months ago.
"When I got hurt, I went through two years of therapy. I think, for me, I sacrificed my time and energy, you know, this (basketball) is my dream," he said, explaining why he chose the Chinese character for his tattoo.
"I've sacrificed so much for basketball, my spare time, my other hobbies, I kept playing after the accident and I don't want to give it up."
He admits he is longing to return to the NBA but also remembers he is "so blessed to be still alive on the earth, let alone playing basketball" after surviving the accident.
"If I have chance, I will play there (NBA) again but if I don't, I will play somewhere else and enjoy it and still be a happy guy."
Source: China Daily/Agency