Roundup: Career-High for Victor ClaverFebruary 28, 2008
While we wait for the next big Chinese prospect to emerge, perhaps the most intriguing stuff coming from a youngster in the CBA this past season has been delivered by Xu Yong, an athletic wing who plays for Shanghai Sharks.
Not precisely a new name in the basketball world, Yong was selected MVP of the Adidas Asia Camp back in 2005, spending the following season in the States at the Bush School in Seattle. This past summer we could take a look at him at the U-19 World Championship, where he emerged as the most interesting player on a very weak Chinese team, while averaging 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Back in China, he has been able to translate that nice summer effort to the CBA competition, going for 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists throughout the regular season. He has even shown nice progression during the season, improving in the five-game span that closed the campaign for 25.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5 assists.
Yong has little competition in his country in terms of physical promise. Fluid and fairly quick, he easily gets off the floor showing good elevation that allows him to often play above the rim, quite a rare feat for a perimeter player in the Asian country. And not only is he athletic, but he also enjoys solid length for a wing player. There are controversial reports on his size, listing him up to 6-9. Heís not by any means that tall, most likely around 6-7, although he might very well stand a legit 6-8 in shoes. Rather skinny, his frame is noticeably better than your average Chinese player still.
Despite his offensive production, Yong still hasnít been able to emerge as a go-to player on the Shanghai Sharks (by the way, a below-average team in the CBA these days). Not the greatest ball-handler around, he struggles working with his left hand in traffic, while his right-hand can only be described as just decent. So itís not common to see Yong attacking his opponents in one-on-one situations. When he does, he usually goes right, and still he struggles to get rid of his defender, mostly because heís not lighting quick off the dribble, and he barely shows any ability to change directions on the move to answer his match-upís reaction. Therefore heís not a player you can consistently trust to create offensive opportunities for the team.
Still, Yong stays pretty active on the floor looking for opportunities. Heís a fairly aggressive player who shows a certain tendency to visit the paint, either cutting from the perimeter, on slashing moves taking advantage of an unbalanced defense, trying to cash in off his superior size in the low post (although his hook shot seems to need a lot of work), or sometimes looking for good position to crash the offensive glass. Certainly the general softness of the CBA helps him in this regard.
A very average shooter, Yong still hasnít been able to develop a consistent jumper. He can knock down open spot-up treys, even off-the-dribble perimeter attempts if it doesnít mean having to change directions sharply, but hardly on a regular clip (he has failed to break the 30% mark this season). He shows nice elevation his shot, but his point of release looks inconsistent. He looks a bit better from mid-range distances, showing also better ability to connect on wilder attempts, sometimes a profitable solution for those drives when he canít get rid of his defender.
A nice open court player, Yong thrives in transition, exhibiting his solid quickness, while he loves to finish with powerful dunks, thanks to his excellent leaping ability. He loves to play above the rim, and not only is the dunk his favorite scoring option, but heís often pretty active on defensive rotations trying to block shots on the other end of the floor. To be more precise, Yongís team defense rotates between disinterest and flashy activity. This seems especially true with the Shanghai Sharks (with the National Team he looks more devoted to the cause), being more in tune with a CBA league where defensive rotations are not particularly emphasized. When it comes to one-on-one defense, heís not as effective as his tools should allow him to be, lacking aggressiveness on the ball, and perhaps better footwork to translate his athleticism into lateral quickness.
Weíre yet not especially sure about where his basketball IQ stands. It often looks like he could take better advantage of his tools, but anyway heís proving to be pretty effective in the CBA at his young age (supposedly born in 1989). Besides, he shows some signs of intriguing passing ability, with arguably the most common dishes coming off his driving attempts, often feeding continuations to his left while he attacks the basket with his right hand.
It doesnít get much more interesting anywhere else in the CBA, and yet Yong has a very long way to go. For starters, he will need to seriously work on his ball-handling skills, actually on his general off-the-dribble game, and his shooting ability. If he managed to become more consistent in those departments, as well as continued to fill out physically, he would likely become a serious NBA prospect.
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