BEIJING (FIBA U17 World Championship) – Zhou Qi does not carry much weight on his 2.13m (7ft 1in) frame. But the 16-year-old Chinese rising star learned some valuable lessons against older and more physical players earlier this month at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST) in preparation for the FIBA U17 World Championship.
China purposely brought a team full of 16 and 17 year old players to the U18 biennial tournament in Mannheim, Germany to prepare for the U17 Worlds in Lithuania in June and July.
He also averaged 16.2 points (sixth among all players) on 57 percent shooting from the field, grabbed 7.8 rebounds (seventh)and had the highest efficiency rating (22.4).
“The major thing I learned was that players are a lot more physical and stronger in this tournament than what I was used to before. I learned a lot in playing more physically at center,” said Qi, who finished as the top shot blocker with 4.2 blocks per game in Mannheim. “This is definitely stronger than the U17 World Championship physically. So it’s really good preparation for the U17s. We will go back to China and look at what we did and what we need to do. I will be more focused on those fields,” explained Qi, who is expected to be one of the top stars this summer in Kaunas.
China head coach Zhang Bin has high hopes for the teenager. “Qi will become a very good player in the future. But he has to get stronger physically,” he said. “He’s really smart. He knows where to go and when. He has a good feeling for the ball. He has everything you need for a center.” Zhang Bin praised Qi for his footwork and said his future is bright. “For now, he’s 16, so he’s still young. He will definitely play well in the Chinese league, but it will depend on him and how he develops if he can play well in the NBA,” he cautioned.
Qi’s talent is recognised by opponents too. “I think he’s an exciting prospect for China basketball,” said Australia coach Damian Cotter after Qi went for 13 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, three assists and two steals against his team at the AST. “He’s obviously very big, but he’s got nice hands. He’s got good footwork. I think in the next two or three years as he develops his body, he is going to become a force to be reckoned with.”
Qi, who said he idolizes veteran China center Wang Zhizhi, is working most on getting more mass and strength as well as his techniques under the basket. He will need to have a good tournament in Lithuania as the Chinese are grouped with Egypt, Australia, Czech Republic, France and the United States in preliminary round play.
“Asia’s level is still lower compared to the other teams in the world. So these will all be strong teams for us. We will just try our best to do the best we can,” said Zhou Qi about the group. The young talent also said he is avoiding paying too much attention to all the hoopla back home about him becoming China’s next big basketball superstar. “I’m just trying to be myself. I’m trying not to pay attention to the media attention. I just want to be myself. I’m trying to improve and just get better,” said Qi.