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Return of CBA action has helped shine light on deep national team pool
BEIJING (China) - Basketball has been gradually finding it's way back into action through the COVID-19 situation. This has resulted in some unique situations such as currently in the remainder of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season.
China's domestic league resumed action back on June 20 to finish off the remaining games of the on-going season. Due to the current circumstances, teams ran into the hurdles of being unable to bring back some of their foreign players who are based outside of the country. Some teams ended up with only one foreign player to get back into action, while nearly half of the entire league decided to parade a line up made of only Chinese players.
This has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it has given more opportunities for local talents to shine and showcase their skills. As a result, China's talent pool to pick from for the upcoming windows of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers just got a bit deeper and wider. There will now be a vast number of names to pick from who will be fresh from playing with plenty of minutes played in expanded roles.
Among two of the bigger names that are benefiting from this additional exposure are the duo from Zhejiang Guangsha, Hu Jinqiu and Sun Minghui. Guangsha are one of the teams that have elected to play in the remainder of this CBA season without a foreign player and in turn, it has allowed two of their brightest young stars to flourish in the spotlight.
22-year-old Hu has already been pegged as one of the promising pieces of China's future, having played in FIBA Asia Cup 2017 and numerous games of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers. He was already having a much improved season before the pause in January and has only returned more improved. Hu has recorded a double-double in all but one game so far and has scored less than 20 points in just one occasion. So far he's been putting up 24.8 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.
While Hu dominates in the frontcourt, it's Sun Minghui who tears it up from the guard position. China has relied on a few other experienced point guards like Guo Ailun, Fang Shou, Zhao Jiwei, and Zhao Rui on the national team, but it looks like it might be Sung Minghui’s time to shine soon.
The 24-year-old guard has been one of the best guards in the entire league since the return to action. He's leading everyone in assists with superb all-around averages of 19.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 9.0 assists, and 3.5 steals per contest. Sun only played 13.2 minutes in four games at the World Cup in 2019 and recent performances might be a sign of things to change down the road.
Other standouts include Zhejiang's backcourt duo of Wu Qian and Cheng Shuaipeng as well as other lesser proven youngsters like Beijing's Jianiyou Taruike and Sichuan's Yuan Tangwen.
Though he is better known as a sharpshooter, Wu Qian has taken this opportunity to display his playmaking skills with an average of 6.6 dimes per contest as of recent. Most of those assists have gone to Cheng Shuaipeng who has been averaging 18.1 points per game, including an explosive 43-point career-high game.
Yuan Tangwen barely played any minutes for Sichuan before the suspension of play in January. However, in the return, he's already logged two games with at least 14 assists for an average of 8.0 per game.
Jianiyou Taruike might not be posting up big-time numbers, but has flashed great potential for the defensive-minded Beijing Ducks and has received many compliments from around the league.
The superstars of the CBA and the China national team are doing just fine in maintaining their level of play during the return to play this season. However, the limitations of the current situation have also been an opportunity for the lesser heralded talents in the league to make a name for themselves.
For a nation that is already loaded with talent like China, this might not be as exciting news for their upcoming opponents as it is for their fans.