Where EAST meets the Northwest
NBA DRAFT COMBINE. Zhou Qi of China participates in the National Basketball
Association draft combine in Chicago. Zhou stands just over 7’2" in sneakers,
has a wingspan just shy of eight feet, and can nearly touch the rim while
standing flat-footed. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #11 (June 6, 2016), page 13.
Zhou Qi’s potential could lead to much NBA draft intrigue
By Tim Reynolds
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI — Zhou Qi needs someone to help him communicate at workouts with
National Basketball Association (NBA) teams, simply because he does not speak
English well enough to understand most instructions.
His game, however, translates just fine.
In an NBA draft class that will likely have Louisiana State University’s Ben
Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram as the first two picks and then much
uncertainty with the remaining 58, Zhou may draw plenty of intrigue. He stands
just over 7’2" in sneakers, has a wingspan just shy of eight feet, and can
nearly touch the rim while standing flat-footed.
He is a big man with shooting-guard skills, China’s next NBA hope, a
20-year-old who’s already a pro at home and now wants to get on the game’s
"I am ready," Zhou said at the NBA draft combine held in May.
Time will tell if NBA teams agree.
Some draftniks say he could be a late-first-round pick. The Boston Celtics —
who have eight draft picks, including three first-rounders and the No. 3
selection — brought him in for a workout, as did the Memphis Grizzlies. He’ll
audition for more NBA teams in the coming weeks, as everyone figures out their
plans for the June 23 draft.
"I think his basketball English was good enough that it didn’t impede us from
doing anything on the court," Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations
John Hollinger said after their workout. "I mean, obviously, we weren’t having
detailed discussions about politics and economics or anything. ... Very skilled
for his size, very long frame, knows how to play."
Executives seem to like what they’re seeing. Miami assistant general manager
Adam Simon said Zhou made an impression even going back to last year at the Nike
Hoop Summit — which annually brings together the best international players age
19 and younger.
"He held his own against the top high school players in the country," Simon
said. "For him, here’s what you base it on: Big guy that can catch, has good
hands, and can run, especially for someone over seven feet tall."
Zhou is one of many intriguing overseas options in this draft class.
Forward Dragan Bender should be a lottery pick from Croatia, and countrymen
Ivica Zubac and Ante Zizic are likely to get snagged in the first round by teams
looking for centers. There’s also Turkish shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz, Serbian
swingman Timothe Luwawu, and Spanish forward Juan Hernangomez as strong
first-round hopefuls. (And that doesn’t even include Oklahoma star Buddy Hield,
a soon-to-be lottery pick who hails from the Bahamas.)
Fairly or not, each of the European and Asian draft entrants will be compared
with Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’3" Latvian forward drafted last year by the New
York Knicks who was the NBA’s second-best rookie.
"I think the international portion of this draft has got a lot of potentially
good players," ESPN basketball analyst and former college coach Fran Fraschilla
said. "But certainly nobody ready to make an impact, let’s say, like Porzingis
did a year ago."
Zhou will face another automatic comparison, that being to 2016 Basketball
Hall of Fame enshrinee Yao Ming. Zhou said China’s most successful NBA player is
already a resource for him.
"We have been in touch," Zhou said at the combine, speaking in Mandarin. "He
shared a lot of his experience with me, mainly about training. I observed (what
he did) when he came here back then, he told me of what he went through when he
came, such as things to which to pay attention, and that the competition here
can be tough."
The drawback for Zhou is his build. He’s tall, but not big. At the draft
combine, Zhou weighed only 218 pounds, which means he would get overpowered in
the post by even average-sized NBA forwards.
"I am growing all the time," Zhou said, pointing out he’d gained 10 pounds in
The list of plusses Zhou brings is far longer. His wingspan and agility help
give him a strong defensive presence, and he moves well. But his biggest asset
is his shooting ability — 18-footers often seem like layups to him, and he’s
working on extending his consistent range out to the NBA 3-point line.
His favorite player is Kevin Durant, but Zhou bristles at any comparison.
"I think I have my own style of play," Zhou said. "Who am I like? I’m not
like anyone. I’m like myself."
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, AP sports writers
Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee and Chris Lehourites in London; and AP
freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee contributed to this report.
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