Feature: Coach Wang and his "brother" Zhejiang players on path to success

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BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Last season's Finals experience is the best proof of the chemistry between coach Wang Bo and his young Zhejiang Lions players, and the Coach of the Year in the 2021-2022 regular season of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) believes his team is on the right path.

Although missing two star players and being swept by the Liaoning Flying Leopards in the Finals, Wang, only in his second year as a head coach, led the Lions to vault from seventh place to the second for a very successful season.

They earned a "double KO" in the two meetings with defending champions Guangdong Southern Tigers in the regular season, and the team with an average age of 23 years old has already ascended among the top teams in the league.

Wang played down his role as usual, just like his nickname "invisible tiger".

"It was a tough season. I didn't have a lot of coaching experience, and I can feel the unsureness when facing strong competitors," said the 39-year-old coach.

In the interview with Xinhua, Wang tagged his players of the Zhejiang Lions as "brothers".

"I know that we are a young team with little game experience, but I would rather give young players chances to play in regular games than in trash time so that they can improve way faster," the coach said. "They have to show their vitalities in exchange for time on the court."

Coming to the team as an assistant coach in 2013, the former Jilin and Zhejiang player has built trust in the locker room and the rapid improvement of young players in Zhejiang stems from his open and straightforward coaching style.

Zhu Junlong was the biggest surprise for Zhejiang under the coach's strategy. The 22-year-old gained 31 minutes per game to average a career-high 9.8 points in the regular season with a 51.7 shooting percentage.

Sending rookie Xu Ke to the finals was another bald move from Wang. "On one hand, Xu can free Sun Minghui. On the other hand, I want him to face the top-tier guards in big games to find what he needs to improve," said coach Wang.

The coach's decision was also supported by Zhejiang's tridents Sun Minghui, Hu Jinqiu and Zhao Yanhao, who sacrificed their minutes and attempts for the growth of younger players. "I didn't set a standard for the minutes and points of the key players. They will happily agree to my rotation when we have big leads," said Wang.

In Wang Bo's view, communication in the locker room and on the court played a big role in their success. "We are a family. My players will always come for me on and off the court. We have the chemistry."

Mo was called up by the national men's team as an assistant coach for the first time after the 2022-2023 season and Sun Minghui and Zhu Junlong were named into the squad for the national team training camp. Zhao Jiaren and Zhao Jiayi, the two brothers, were selected for the 3x3 basketball national team.

The team has no time to rest during the off-season even without these key players. "The summer camp is very important during the off-season. Coach Nie Jinqiang and the others will be around this summer, and I will give feedback online while I'm away," said the head coach.

There is other two good news for Zhejiang: Zhao Yanhao was recently discharged from the hospital, and Hu Jinqiu is also recovering well.

"There is no rush to push them into training. They need time to recover from the injuries. They have made a great contribution to the team and their health is the priority," Wang added. Enditem

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