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China ace Xu eyeing up future WNBA Draft
TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - As one half of China's exciting teenage twin towers, Han Xu is turning heads at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife.
For those already in the know, the presence of the 18-year-old is no surprise after her eye-catching displays when she burst onto the scene at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup in Zaragoza two years ago. She helped China reach the Semi-Finals and was named to the All-Star Five in the process.
Back on Spanish soil once again, the imposing 6ft 9in (2.05m) center is making the most of being elevated to the senior ranks, having also featured at the U19 level last year in Udine.
"It's been a very fast process for me to be now playing in this tournament, but the experience of first playing at the U17 Women's Basketball World Cup was very important to me," she revealed.
"It gave me a lot of knowledge about other styles of basketball and I have many good memories of that time. Now I'm also learning a lot from the players I'm with now and having to learn quickly."
Given a standing ovation for her impressive display (22 points on 10-of-15 shooting) against USA by the locals, the smile on the face of Han told the story. Despite a loss, it was an extra special moment since she was able to put herself even further into the center of the radar with a great showing.
Xu has already been listed as a member of the prestigious Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp.
That is important, since she has ambitions to one day play in the States and when asked if the WNBA draft is something she was focused on, the response was telling.
"Yes," she declared emphatically in English, breaking away from the interpreter and revealing her English lessons are progressing nicely.
"Of course I think about it a lot and it's very exciting for me to think I could be drafted in the WNBA. I don't know if I will (get drafted) or not, but for now, I'm working as much as I can to get better as a player."
"THE EXPERIENCE OF FIRST PLAYING AT THE U17 WOMEN'S WORLD CUP WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. I HAVE MANY GOOD MEMORIES OF THAT TIME."
As China take aim at a possible place in Friday's Quarter-Finals, Han has a big role to play in putting the former powerhouse back where they belong.
The recent elevation and success of Japan, combined with the arrival into the Asia region of Australia means three is a crowd.
With China having not one but two teenage sensations in the paint, the future looks particularly bright and Han is pleased to share her experience alongside the 19-year-old Yueru Li.
"We are really good friends and you can see we play with very different styles," she enthused. "We encourage each other in every practise and in the games we make each other better.
"We're using our strengths together, in order to try and make China basketball even better in the future."
"OF COURSE I THINK ABOUT IT A LOT AND IT'S VERY EXCITING FOR ME TO THINK I COULD BE DRAFTED IN THE WNBA."
Certainly the biggest measure of success for those who had seen Han previously is that instead of seeing her height first, you see her skills.
The consistency of her mid-range game has been uplifted significantly, while she runs the floor as well as anybody else of her height has ever done.
The building blocks of a great career are in place - now it's only a matter of whether WNBA clubs will trust that one of Asia's biggest emerging stars will truly to be able to commit to a club career Stateside.
Watch this space.