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First Step for Yi in Quest for NBA Glory
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Aiming to be the next Chinese NBA star, 19-year-old Yi Jianlian from Guangdong arrived in Los Angeles yesterday for a private pre-Draft training camp, during which he will be coached by former Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon.


Yi will be represented by longtime NBA agent Dan Fegan who has confirmed the starlet's participation in a series of camps held by NBA teams ahead of the draft to be held in New York on June 28. Following this stay, Yi will likely play the NBA summer league, as recommended by Yao Ming.  


China's top NBA prospect Yi Jianlian walks out of the Los Angeles International Airport,United States on April 12, 2007 for his league's annual draft in June.[sina.com]


China's top NBA prospect Yi Jianlian walks out of the Los Angeles International Airport, United States on April 12, 2007 for his league's annual draft in June.[sina.com]


Houston Rockets' All-star center Yao has urged Yi Jianlian to "open himself" to a new lifestyle in the United States.


"As far as I know, Yi is a little bit shy so his prime task in the US will be to open up a little,” Yao told the Basketball Pioneer. "You cannot ignore the cultural difference between eastern and western countries and many people have trouble dealing with this fact. Yi must open his heart and communicate with the people around him on and off the court, not only teammates, but also coaches, trainers, officials and the media. Good communication will remove a lot of the pressure from his shoulders.”


"From my experience, it is vital that he plays in the summer league. I think this would be good for him and for whatever team decides to draft him. I did not attend the summer league when I was drafted by the Rockets and it was very tough to begin with.”


Yi has been one of the shining stars in the CBA's firmament, leading the Guangdong Tigers to three consecutive titles and despite falling to Bayi Rockets in this year's finals, his 25.4 points and 11 rebounds per game made him the second-ranked player in the league behind former NBA center Wang Zhizhi.


Having represented China at the Athens Olympics and at the World Championships last year in Japan, Yi has tested his mettle on the international stage but has never faced consistently world-class opposition.


"He needs more muscle, that's for sure," Yao told the paper. "He lacks the upper body strength, and needs to improve his game when back to the basket as his moves are a bit long and rangy for a three.”


"Although he doesn't shy away from physical contact, he is riled by rough post play and must learn to stand firm in the low post since opposing defenders are able to push him out at present.”


Last year's draft saw an international player, Italian Andrea Bargnani, picked first by the Toronto Raptors. This year the field is much tougher, with US college prospects Greg Oden and Kevin Durant battling for first pick. Yi is predicted to place between 6th and 12th.


(China Daily April 13, 2007)

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