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Shandong delights in youth brigade

By Sun Xiaochen  (China Daily)

11:05, April 01, 2013

Ding Yanyuhang of Shandong Gold Lions tries to break past an opponent in the Game 4 of the CBA Finals against Guangdong Southern Tigers on Friday in Shandong. Led by Ding, a group of young players are on the rise in Shandong.(Photo / China Daily)

Despite getting swept from Finals, future looks bright for Gold Lions

Although they were swept by the Guangdong Southern Tigers in their CBA Finals debut, the Shandong Gold Lions still left their home court with plenty to feel happy about.

Foremost among the team's achievements was the raising of a crop of promising youngsters, which made great contributions during the team's postseason run.

Swingman Ding Yanyuhang and shooter Li Jingyu, both born in the 1990s, emerged as vital components in the Lions' breakthrough CBA season with decent figures while also showing great side's on-court maturity.

For their efforts, they received warm ovations from the home crowd at the 8,000-seat Shandong Gymnasium after losing Game 4, 94-74, to Guangdong on Friday night. Fans stood and applauded long after the final whistle before seeing the team off with posters outside the main gate.

The improvement of the side's young players has encouraged head coach Gong Xiaobin to expect more in the coming years.

"Playing on the final stage was already a big success for us as we are one of the youngest teams in the league," coach Gong said in the locker room after the sweep.

"Guangdong is still the best team in the CBA in terms of big-time experience and individual ability, but we saw a bright future as our young players got tested."

Drafted from the second team last season, 19-year-old Ding improved his game with consistent scoring off the dribble and strong defense after a tough preseason camp where he practiced with US guard Pooh Jeter and Jordan national forward Zaid Abbas.

Meanwhile, Li, 21, displayed his skill beyond the arc, knocking down 78 3-pointers to lead Shandong's Chinese roster, while also playing solid defense on the oppositions' main marksmen.

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