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Yi wants China to have unity and strong mindset at World Cup
BEIJING (China) - If China are to be a major force on home soil at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, one man who must rise and carry the heavy cudgels of leadership is Yi Jianlian.
The 31-year-old is fresh off of leading the Guangdong Southern Tigers to a sweep of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the 2019 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) Finals, to clinch the team's ninth title.
Now Yi has to face a bigger challenge with China hosting the World Cup and carrying the weight of expectations. Fans of the home side will be hoping the team can clinch a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by finishing as the best-placed Asian team at this summer's biggest basketball competition.
Yi headlines a Chinese pool of 20 players revealed on Monday that will get together on May 15 in preparation for the World Cup.
|China 20-man FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 pool|
|Abudushalamu Abudurexiti||Chen Linjian||Ding Yanyuhang||Fang Shuo|
|Guo Ailun||Hu Jinqiu||Kelanbaike Makan||Liu Zhixuan|
|Ren Junfei||Shen Zijie||Sun Minghui||Wang Zhelin|
|Wu Qian||Yi Jianlian||Zhai Xiaochuan||Zhang Zhenlin|
|Zhao Jiwei||Zhao Rui||Zhou Peng||Zhou Qi|
Yi knows how special playing at the Olympics is, having done it four times, including the 2008 edition in Beijing. Getting the opportunity to play at a fifth would be monumental. For that to happen, China must perform very well at the World Cup.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent China at the 2008 Olympics at home," he recalled. "Now, 11 years later, I'm very fortunate to participate in the FIBA Basketball World Cup on home soil again."
As one of the national team's seasoned veterans, Yi knows his days of playing at top level world events are numbered.
"I want to share my experience with other players," he said, sensing the urgency to impart the significance of playing on the world stage to his teammates, similar to how China legends like Wang Zhizhi and Yao Ming did for him in the past.
Speaking of urgency, with so many other Asian teams rising and building up the strength of their squads, Yi knows the window of China's dominance has all but completely closed, leading to a creeping desperation to qualify outright to the Olympics.
For the national team to successfully do so, the 2.13m (7ft) big man believes that more than size and skill, China need to be mentally tough and to display sublime cohesion to bring out the best in each other.
"I wish our team will have great a mindset and have unity," he explained. "We’ll give all and contribute our best to prepare for this World Cup."
At the World Cup, China will play in Group A, taking on Cote d'Ivoire, Poland and Venezuela in Beijing.