Best is yet to come for team leader Yi

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Yi Jianlian fought for every rebound and point in the paint, even though he was suffering from a sore Achilles' tendon.

"He is the best player so far in this tournament," his coach, Bob Donewald Jr, said after China bowed out on Tuesday.

The power forward, who will play for the Washington Wizards in the NBA this coming season, managed to score 11 points and grab 12 rebounds during the last-16 loss to Lithuania.

He is the tournament's leading rebounder with 10.2 per game and third in scoring with an average of 20.2 points.

He was more aggressive at both ends of the floor, sending a message to new Wizards coach Flip Saunders about what he can expect after being traded from New Jersey Nets.

"Yes, it was a great World Championship for me. I tried to play more aggressively in both defense and offense. I think after years of experience at the Olympics, World Championships and NBA, I have reached a higher level," said Yi, 23.

"I'm more confident and know how to control the rhythm on the court. I will get better prepared for the new season because it's a new start at a new club for me."

In his three previous seasons, the 7-foot (2.13m) forward averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 assists - somewhat underwhelming numbers for the sixth overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft.

As China entered the World Championship in Turkey, there were many who questioned if Yi could step up in the absence of injured Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and lead the team to success.

The answer was a resounding yes.

Donewald said he was pleased to see Yi grow into the leadership role.

"When I first met him, I told him, 'You have got to take this thing (team leadership) over and you have got to take the ring'.

"This is a new team. This is also a new role for him. All the things he did so far show he's growing as a leader."

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