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NBA: Yao Tells Yi to 'Toughen Up'
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Houston Rockets center Yao Ming advised China's brightest NBA prospect Yi Jianlian to get tough on court but remain placid off it to survive in the world's most competitive basketball league, local media reported on Friday.

Yi, 19, who arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday to attend a training camp ahead of the NBA draft, was lacking in upper body strength and "a bit long and rangy", the China Daily quoted Yao as saying.

"He needs more muscle, that's for sure," Yao said. "Although he doesn't shy away from physical contact, he can get disrupted by rough play and struggles to maintain his position as opposing defenders tend to push him out."

The 2.11-metre (6 ft 11 in) teenager, touted to become China's fourth NBA player after Wang Zhizhi, Menk Bateer and Yao, is likely to be a top pick at the NBA draft in June.

Media-friendly Yao, who speaks fluent English and once professed a weakness for Starbucks frappuccinos, said Yi should embrace the American lifestyle and "open his heart" to coaches, officials and US journalists.

"You cannot ignore the cultural difference between eastern and western countries, a lot of people have trouble with that... Good communication will take some pressure off him," Yao said.

(Reuters via China Daily April 16, 2007)

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