The Memphis Grizzlies chose Wang Zhelin with the 57th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, 14 spots after Chinese compatriot Zhou Qi was selected by the Houston Rockets. But the 25-year-old has yet to make a move to the U.S., focusing instead on improving his all-around skills, and helping change the fortunes of the Fujian Sturgeons back in China.
The center's efforts have resulted in him emerging as a serious contender for the CBA's Domestic MVP award, averaging just under 22 points and 12 rebounds per game heading into Friday night's clash with the Beikong Fly Dragons, and earning a heaping helping of credit from his teammates, for the squad's turnaround this winter.
"His attitude towards the season has been different. I've been knowing him for seven seasons now and seeing from then to now, it just has been a huge development with his body and his confidence. He's been playing as like the best Chinese player, and that's why we're doing so well. He and Andrew are the best frontcourt in this league," Fujian's point guard Pooh Jeter told CGTN after Friday's game.
"He looks great. I mean he's in better shape than he was last year, he's shooting the ball, he's just a great complement. I love playing with him, you know, we have a great high-low game, and we play well together," Andrew Nicholson, Fujian's power forward said after the game.
Beikong will probably make major changes in the offseason, after a campaign that has seen the Fly Dragons end a 15-game losing streak by claiming their league-lowest eighth win, only to follow up by dropping four more contests on the bounce and largely start turning their attention towards the future.
"Right now it's just tough. Just playing hard, we just got to continue to try to play hard, and don't give up in games. That's basically it right now. We have a lot of young guys, so just trying to just bring everyone together, try to just keep pushing forward, take all the positives that can come out of every game," Beijing's shooting guard Ricky Ledo told CGTN.
In the meantime, with Fujian boasting 27 victories and a solid grip on seventh place, Wang and the rest of the Sturgeons can now start preparing in earnest for their likely first-round series against the yet-to-be-determined number 10 seeds, when the expanded CBA Playoffs get going next weekend.