Chinese 2.12-meter center Xue Yuyang, hoping to follow compatriot Yao Ming into National Basketball Association stardom, was taken with the penultimate pick in the NBA Draft in New York Thursday.
Xue, who played for the Hong Kong Flying Dragons last season, was selected 57th overall by the Dallas Mavericks, the Texas state-rivals of the Houston Rockets, who chose Yao first overall in last year's draft.
But Xue's stay with the Mavericks was short-lived. Minutes after 20-year-old Xue was taken, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that he was being traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for a second-round pick in next year's draft.
"The Chinese kid was not for us," Cuban said. "We drafted for Denver."
Xue, recently elevated to China's national team, will join a Denver club that is already familiar with Chinese basketball talent.
The Nuggets were the original NBA club for Chinese veteran Mengke Bateer, who was the NBA's second Chinese player and who became the first Chinese player with an NBA title this month as a reserve member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Xue averaged 21.8 points and 9.3 points a game for Hong Kong last year.
While many players are considered better off not being drafted late in the second round so they could be free to talk with several teams, the need to negotiate with Chinese officials makes selection a much easier NBA path for Chinese players.
(China Daily June 28, 2003)