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CBA Top Official to Seek Exiled Center Wang in US
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Chinese basketball fans would see a ray of hope again of watching exiled star center Wang Zhizhi play for the country, as a leading official confirmed on Friday that they have headed to the United States to bring him back to the national team.

Li Yuanwei, chief director of the China Basketball Association (CBA), is expected to hold talks in Los Angeles with Wang, China's first-ever player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), according to CBA vice director Hu Jiashi.

"The major purpose of the trip is to meet Wang," he said. "We hope to free his mind of worries and bring him back to the national team as soon as possible. That's what officials and fans would like to see.

"Our attitude remains consistent -- the door of the national team is open to him at any time."

With no more than three years until the Beijing Olympic Games, the national team is set to play a series of international tournaments in 2006, including the World Basketball Championships this August in Japan and then the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in December.

Wang, who averaged 22.8 points and 8.9 rebounds when he led the Chinese military club, the Bayi Rockets, to consecutive CBA titles from 1996 to 2001, is widely believed to hold a crucial post as power forward in the Yao Ming-led team.

"We hope he could play the World Championships and even the Beijing Olympics, but the priority is that he must make some substantial moves in the coming talks in LA."

Wang has played sparingly in a lackluster NBA career that began with the Dallas Mavericks in 2002, and then was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers before he was cut from the Miami Heat late last season.

The 2.12-meter center's trouble with the national team began in 2003 when he refused to return to China for national team training during the NBA summer league. His status at the Chinese military has also complicated his condition.

Since 2002, CBA has tried to seek Wang's return in many ways, but the efforts proved in vain due to his negative attitude. The turning point came in 2005 when Wang, who has missed out on the World Championships and Asian Games in 2002 and Athens Games in 2004, contacted the CBA through a Chinese reporter, expressing his willingness to compete in the Beijing Olympics.

Wang played in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, averaging 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds at Sydney, when he teamed up with Yao as part of China's "Walking Great Wall."

CBA head Li is also expected to talk with the Beijing Aoshen Basketball Club, which two years ago played in the CBA during his trip to the United States. But this year, it has surprised many by dishing out an 11 win, 12 loss record in the American Basketball Association (ABA).

Aoshen, now based in Los Angeles, boasts national team guard Sun Yue in its line-up. Sun has joined the national team during the Asian Championships last year and is also expected to play in the coming international tournaments.

Aoshen was ousted from the CBA primarily due to the club's refusal to let Sun train with the national side.

(China Daily February 18, 2006)

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