The fifth draft in Chinese basketball history has taken place in Shanghai in July 26th. Since Yao Ming become CBA President, he adopted the same system already used in the USA with the clear goal of improving the quality of basketball in China.
Although the Chinese model is more similar to the European one, in which every professional club organize its own youth sector to have their own players, Yao put the foundation for a very relevant and important cultural change for a brighter future.
Right now, the majority of youth sectors players are considered already pro after they are 15 years old; that means they will exclusively play basketball. Some clubs have a private teacher, a figure similar to a tutor, that weekly will give some lessons to the players; but definitely is still very different that attending class at school.
The players have anyway some exams to pass during the year if they wish to continue their academic studies in case they could not make the CBA or the NBL.
There are still many differences between the NBA draft and the CBA draft, for example there is not a lottery pick in CBA but teams are chosen based on the rankings of last season (last team of the regular season has the first pick, while the first team has last pick); teams can choose players of their own youth sector (primarily to guarantee a minimum salary that are associated with the draft pick); it is possible to choose players from the second division league (NBL); it is possible to withdraw the pick and not choose any players; the army team (Bayi) is excluded from the draft because its players must have certain standard and qualifications to play for the Army and the players are coming exclusively from Bayi youth section.
In 2015 draft, the first in history on China, only one player was selected by Chongqing (that later become Beijing Beikong), while all the others team did not pick.
After only four years, the 2019 draft had 16 players selected in the two rounds and 6 players were coming from the CUBA league, the University Championship. A raising number that definitely will keep growing year after year especially as the University also are improving their basketball program all over China.
The real surprise of 2019 draft is that the first three picks are all coming from University: Wang ShaoJie from the famous “Peking University” of Beijing, has been selected with the first pick (with a contract of 500,000 rmb) from the Beijing Royal Fighters (where Stephen Marbury is the head coach), and he is the most important name of this draft. Twenty-three years old, small forward of 205 cm and 105 kg, he led Beijing to 3 CUBA straight titles, finishing his senior year with 14.5 points, 7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game; he was also named MVP in the All-Star Game in which the CBA rookies team lost to the CUBA selection lead by Wang.
With the second pick, the Nanjing Monkey Kings, selected Sun Si Yao from California State University (NCAA II division), Power forward, 208 cm and 115 kg, he is called to demonstrate his ability to play after being injured during the last season.
If the 2019 draft players are ready to play CBA only time can tell; we must say tough that there is the will to change a system that so far did not produce enough good results for the incredible numbers of China and for the passion that this nation has for basketball.
The future is bright under the guide of Yao Ming, a charismatic leader with a deep knowledge that can see what Chinese basketball need to make a big step forward. Not only the draft introduction, but also good reforms of the youth championship at different levels and managing the National team (the fifth place of the women’s team to the 2018 World Cup is a great example of Yao’s work) will bring the hoped results.
In the draft case, giving the possibility to realize the CBA dream also to the many players that decide to not drop the school, it is a clear direction where Yao is pointing.