ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): The last time Wang Zhelin played in FIBA Asia U18 Championship – at the 21st FIBA Asia Championship at Sana’A (Yemen) in 2010 – we might have ignored his presence but for his height. But two years down the line, the 215-cm center is the center of attraction at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship what with the Fujian youngster almost becoming one of the youngest to play for China at the Olympics.
Wang Zhelin was one of the few who played with the National Team throughout the Olympic preparations and remained so till the team played its final set of preparation games in Poland.
“I know my time will come. No regrets at all,” Wang Zhelin had said then, and repeated it in a conversation with this website after China steamrolled their opponents in the first two games here.
“I am very happy I got the opportunity to play alongside some of the greatest players in China. I used to worship Wang Zhizhi ever since I know basketball and it was a dream come true to be playing on the same team with him. I have age on my side and I am willing to wait,” he said after China defeated India for their second win on the trot.
“These two years have been really exciting for me. My learning graph has gone steeply uphill especially ever since I got the call for the Olympic preparations. And I am really happy to play the role of the leader with this team here,” he said.
The conversation invariably remained centered around Wang Zhelin’s time with the Chinese Olympic team.
“There were many things I learnt from them,” Wang Zhelin said about playing alongside Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhizhi.
“From Yi, I picked quite a few points on offense and shooting,” he said.
“Watching Wang Zhizhi from close quarters was an education by itself. The way he prepares for a game, the way he conducts himself, the way he keeps his composure for the entire game and a lot more. All were great lessons for me,” he said.
Among his teammates at Ulaanbaatar is another tall youngster – Zhou Qi – who is Wang Zhelin’s strongest contender for the ‘next Yao Ming’ tag.
“He’s got some great defensive skills,” Wang Zhelin said about Zhou Qi.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to play with such players. And I am sure we will both play together for a longer time.”
Speaking about the competition here, Wang Zhelin said: “It’s a long tournament and it won’t be easy.”
“People no longer only watch China’s results. Everybody is keenly interested in the way we play and what are the small things we do. For that matter, even we as a team are focusing on that. Of course it is important we win, but it’s equally important we play well and improve every day,” he signed off.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia