Yao's summer includes hoops camp

BEIJING -- Having appeared in a documentary and played himself on "The Simpsons," Houston Rockets star Yao Ming will voice a whole different character for an upcoming Chinese-language animated film.

The 7-foot-6 center also will spend time on the court while back in China, leading a basketball camp next month for Asia's top young players.

But first, Yao plays the father of the main character in "The Magic Aster," a traditional tale of good versus evil that promises to be more earnest than the famously irreverent Simpsons.

Taiwanese model-actress Lin Chi-ling and Hong Kong singer-actor Leon Lai also are featured in the entirely Chinese movie production, which premiers June 19, the official China Daily newspaper reported.

"A lot of animation produced in China is very good and I hope children can enjoy this one and pass on traditional Chinese culture as well," Yao was quoted as saying.

Yao's offseason also will include a camp in Beijing from July 30 to Aug. 2. Basketball Without Borders' Asian program, jointly hosted by the NBA and the International Basketball Federation, will select 50 of Asia's top under-19 players to participate in the clinic featuring the tutelage of NBA coaches and players.

"I'm elated to ... have the opportunity to witness firsthand the change this program can make in the lives of youth both on and off the court," Yao said in a statement.

With a huge NBA fan base already in China -- mainly thanks to Yao -- the league has entered into several ventures in the world's most populous nation to develop players and build arenas to NBA specifications, all in the hope of further tapping into China's colossal consumer marketplace.

Basketball Without Borders, which began in 2001, will hold regional camps in Beijing, South Africa and Mexico this year. Mexican forward Eduardo Najera of the New Jersey Nets will conduct the Mexico City camp. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will lead the one in South Africa, along with Olympic teammates Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer.

Yao returned to his homeland after Houston lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, during which he suffered a broken left foot. Along with his movie commitments, the 28-year-old has been taking part in charity events.

Yao starred in the 2004 documentary "The Year of the Yao," and voiced himself in the Simpsons episode "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass," in which he hires Homer to choreograph his victory dance.