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Tuesday, July 9
Yi no Yao, but ABCD has Chinese flavor

Sports Ticker

TEANECK, N.J. -- The next Yao Ming may soon be on his way to the NBA.

Yi Jianlian became the latest Chinese player to attend the prestigious ABCD Camp, which began on Monday. And although he has a long way to go to get to the league, the 6-foot-11 center managed to turn numerous heads.

The camp is in its 18th year and saw a pair of Chinese players take part a year ago. Zhengdong Tang, a 7-1, 270-pound center, impressed many college coaches and Qingpeng Zhang proved to be a heady 6-1 point guard.

Yi is only 16-years-old and has only been playing basketball for four years. He was named the best player at the ABCD camp in China from May 10-16 and decided to take his game overseas to face the best competition possible.

"He wants to get the American smell of basketball," said an interpreter.

Although Yi weighs only 220 pounds, he did manage to display a solid jump hook and numerous other low-post skills as he held his own against the other big men in the camp.

With good big men sorely lacking in the college game, college coaches were intrigued along with numerous NBA scouts. However, there appears to be little chance that Yi will play American college basketball.

One of Yi's interpreters was needed to instruct him as to when to check into the game, demonstrating how little English he speaks. Right now, Yi is enrolled in what his handlers called a sports school in which he will have to develop his game.

It is unlikely that Yi Jianlian will be able to make the jump to the NBA in two or three years, but the continued Chinese presence at what is considered the camp for the best young players in America is an indication of how far the rest of the world has advanced.

Camp Chatter

  • Louisiana State may be a last-place team now but things may be changing soon. That is because players from the state of Louisiana were among the most impressive on the first day of the camp.

    Glen Davis, a 6-8 325-pound forward, demonstrated that he can post up, run the floor and rebound with the best of them. Brandon Bass, a 6-8 swingman, is a terrific athlete whose game would certainly flourish in an uptempo system. Davis and Bass are two of five players from Baton Rouge, right in the Tigers' backyard.

  • "People think I'm crazy," Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. "But what can I do? It's a chance to get on ESPN."

    Willard was referring to his team's season-opening date at Kansas in the Preseason NIT in November, a rematch of a surprisingly competitive first-round NCAA Tournament contest from a year ago. He made it clear it was not his preference to play the Jayhawks, but that he really had no choice.

    "We can't get any games," said Willard, referring to larger schools' reluctance to play his rising program. "We were supposed to be in the Preseason NIT next year but ESPN called with it and we wanted to give the kids a chance."

    Holy Cross returns four starters, a major reason why larger programs are reluctant to play it. The Crusaders do have a chance to notch a big win when they host Boston College.

  • Although Stanford lost starters Curtis Borchardt and Casey Jacobsen to the NBA, the Cardinal believe they can be a surprise in the Pac-10 Conference. Stanford is counting on the emergence of a pair of players who were freshmen last year, center Rob Little and small forward Josh Childress.

    Little was plagued by foul trouble but appears ready to grab Borchardt's role in the middle. With the Pac-10 losing centers like UCLA's Dan Gadzuric and California's Jamal Sampson, Little could emerge as the top pivot in the league. Sampson was known for his afro hairstyle more than his play but a year under his belt gave him valuable experience.

  • Taliek Brown has not seen the latest Connecticut Huskie to possess his surname, but he knew the most pertinent information about incoming freshman Denham Brown.

    "I know he scored 110 points," Taliek Brown said.

    Denham Brown is a 6-5 wing player that shattered Canada's high school record for points in a game and is slated to take over Caron Butler's starting slot. He possesses a strong body and should flourish in the physical Big East.

    Despite the loss of Butler, Taliek Brown expects the Huskies to remain a force in an improved league in which Villanova and Syracuse bring in heralded recruits that will likely put them in the preseason rankings. Besides its starting point guard, Connecticut returns Emaka Okafor, Tony Robertson and Ben Gordon.

    And for anyone keeping tracks, there are three Browns on U-Conn's roster: Taliek, Denham and center Justin Brown.

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