Chinese center Zhou Qi (R) is in a friendly against Serbia on Aug. 15, 2015 in Belgrade. (Xinhua)
BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) — Chinese up-and-coming basketball star Zhou Qi earned huge support from home fans for his NBA draft in June while his club team Xinjiang seemed reluctant to let him go.
The towering center announced on Friday that he is to enter the 2016 NBA draft. In a recent mock draft by website DraftExpress, Zhou was selected as the 27th pick in the first round by the Toronto Raptors.
If Zhou were picked, he would become the first Chinese player in the NBA draft in nine years following Chinese internationals Yi Jianlian he Sun Yue’s 2007 draft and the fifth Chinese ever joining the draft. The NBA has been without a Chinese player since 2014 when Yi returned following a mediocre NBA spell.
Chinese fans anticipant of seeing another fellow countryman playing in the top basketball game gathered to root for the 20-year-old.
A hashtag with the topic “Fire up, Zhou Qi!” was made on China’s twitter-like Weibo and already read close to 10 millions times on Sunday.
“Whatever his position is in the draft, I am looking such much forward to seeing another Chinese face in the NBA,” said an internet user with the ID “extremely indoorsy”.
A fan compared Zhou with Yao Ming, so far the most successful Chinese player in the NBA, who now owns Chinese basketball club Shanghai Sharks and a very influential figure in the sport in China.
“Zhou is both tall and agile. But at the same time, he is not so strong which will put him in disadvantage during confrontation, just like Yao who first arrived in the NBA,” said Hao Zhao.
In contrast to fans’ zealous support, Zhou’s CBA team Xinjiang appeared less enthusiastic.
“We think the time is not right (for him to go to the NBA) but he insisted on giving it a try,” Xinjiang club chairman Hou Wei told Jinghua Times on Friday.
Zhou, a 7-foot-2 and 210-pound prospect in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league, averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in the 2015-16 season for Xinjiang.