First-year Fresno State coach Rodney Terry needed to add a big man to the roster and ended up finding one from China.
The Bulldogs have announced the addition of Grant Hefeng, and Terry believes the 6-foot-8 power forward from Shenzhen is one of the first players from China to transition straight into Division I basketball without first attending school in the United States. Terry said Hefeng, also known as Sun Hefeng, has been cleared to play and will soon enroll in school.
"He really wanted to be a kid who had a chance and come over and be a trailblazer," Terry said. "It was a lifelong dream for him to play college basketball."
Terry had made a name for himself while as a Texas assistant coach by opening up a pipeline to Canada and recruiting Myck Kabongo, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson to become Longhorns. He now believes that China is the wave of the future and is willing to take a risk to make it happen.
Terry needed some size after Greg Smith decided to turn pro and others transferred. Hefeng's name came up as a potential prospect. The coaching staff relied on its contacts for evaluations, watched some video online and then got to see him play at an AAU tournament last month in Carson, Calif. Terry said he couldn't even remember the name of the AAU team Hefeng played for, but his ability left a lasting impression.
"He’s a skilled face-up guy that has a chance to score the ball really well and can shoot the ball," Terry said. "He's one of those guys that's more crafty and has a knack for scoring in a variety of ways."
Can Hefeng make the jump from China to Central California? Terry said he passed the necessary standardized test to get eligible and has a grasp of the language.
"His English is not half bad," Terry said, adding that he is in the process of finding a translator. "The more we’ve communicated with him, the more he understands.
"China is one of the untapped areas in terms of prospects. They've made a lot of progress on the international scene in terms of where basketball is there with Yao Ming having come over here and had success."
But can Hefeng, who has played on the Chinese National Team level, make an impact in the WAC? Terry said he hasn't seen him play enough to tell. So you be the judge.