KUALA LUMPUR (Mageshwaran’s AsiaScope) - Wang Zhelin is on the move. In the upward direction if you please. The much-touted teenager - considered rightly by the discerning as the future of Chinese basketball - has made his overdue debut on the professional circuit and immediately caught the imagination of the public.
Wang Zhelin has started six of the seven games Fujian has played so far and is averaging 21.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, making it one of the most impressive starts by any teenager in the high-profile and highly-scrutinised CBA League.
Just for the record, the more accomplished and certainly more famous Yao Ming averaged 10 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first year in the CBA with Shanghai Sharks.
There is something more special about Wang Zhelin’s impressive beginning in the CBA, apart from the unignorable massive numbers that he is reeling in. It has more to do with the attitude he has shown before the start of the league and the presence of the inimitable task master in Tab Baldwin at the helm of Fujian’s coaching.
Baldwin, who needs no introduction to the Chinese fans – after the Jordanian National Team under Baldwin gave the Chinese team quite a few nightmares in the Gold Medal Game of the 26th FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China in 2011 – is no novice in handling novices at the professional level.
With a mind as sharp as any other in the game, Baldwin has always fought and championed the cause of the underdog, and more often than not, with incredible success. Therefore, his approach to the game has always bordered more on weaving together a tight line of defense.
This exactly is where Wang Zhelin will stand to gain, as against many other fellow youngsters in the league.
Chinese basketball has traditionally suffered for want of a proper and efficient defensive game. There is no doubt about this. Very often, China have used their size and strength to muscle their way through at the Asian level, but when it came to taking on some of the bigger names in the international game, they have suffered on defense.
Now, Wang Zhelin stands at 2.15m tall – and is bound to get taller for a couple of more years – is already more than a threat at the Asian level. This was evident at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia last August followed by the 4th FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo (Japan) a month later.
Wang Zhelin finished with double-digit averages in points as well as rebounds at both events. Therefore, his ability to scythe through the defense at the Asian level is beyond doubt. But the training and testing that will take place under Baldwin will help him immensely at the next level, when China aim to improve their record in international events.
“I won't think too much (about the future). All I think about is trying hard to help the team win games and getting better step by step,” Wang Zhelin said about his current situation.
Just that these ‘step-by-steps’ get firmer, stronger and more focused when the coach is somebody called Tab Baldwin.
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