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Zhao Yanhao is all business for China at EABA 2017
NAGANO (EABA Championship 2017) - At just 19 years old, Zhao Yanhao shouldn't be among the best players at the EABA Championship 2017, but he has defied that convention to be China's most reliable scorer.
The secret of the versatile 1.93m wingman has been his laser-like focus and business-like approach to every game the Chinese have played so far. Zhao is considered by many to be a rising star in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and has been compared to the likes of legend Hu Weidong, but the young shooter from the Zhejiang Lions is quick to dispel the hype.
"I don't think I'm a rising star," he said. "I just want to focus on my play on the court and improving myself."
He is clearly here in Nagano, Japan for just one goal — to win for China their first EABA Championship crown. They came oh so close in 2013 when they made it to the Final only to lose to Korea, 79-68. Zhao was still part of the U16 men's team in that year together with big man Hu Jinqiu, but now both of them have a clear shot at giving their country the one Asian basketball prize they haven't been able to cop.
And so far, things are humming for coach Fan Bin's squad. They beat Chinese Taipei in emphatic fashion on Day 1, 96-63, before blowing out Hong Kong yesterday, 90-60. In both games, Zhao shone brightly, scoring 22 points against Taipei and following that up with 16 points versus Hong Kong. He is currently the competition's leading scorer with 19.0 points per game while also hitting 3.0 triples per contest.
It'd be easy for Zhao to feel supremely confident, but, true to his austere nature, he is taking it one game at a time.
"I never think about going all the way just yet," he said. "We should just concentrate on the next game."
China are sitting pretty atop Group B and are likely going to face Korea in the Semi-Final before a probable matchup with hosts Japan for the title. Zhao knows that for them to reach their goal, China will inevitably have to go through these two rivals of theirs.
"Our toughest opponents will be Japan and Korea," he conceded.
Moving forward, Zhao is aware that his production will be crucial to China's chances of winning, but aside from his sublime perimeter play, Zhao feels that China can easily dominate in this tournament because of their size and their discipline on both ends of the floor.
"The strength of our team is our inside play, and our team have good cohesion and good execution."Zhao Yanhao