22 September, 2022
01 October
15 Xu Han (CHN)
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Han Xu: Standing tall, talented, and inspirational

SYDNEY (Australia) - Even among basketball players, it's not tough to pick Han Xu out of a crowd. The China national team center towers at 2.05M (6'9") which is something that has always made her standout.

Over the past six years, however, Han has been putting in the effort and work to make sure that she wouldn't be recognized just for her height. She's made her mark on the court and continued to improve each and every time she's suited up for China, from the U17 Women's World Cup in 2016 to the recent Women's World Cup in Sydney last month.

"I want more people to cheer for women's basketball."


One of the best

And after what was a remarkable run for China with their first podium finish in 28 years and for Han herself, she really has become more than simply a tall basketball player.

"I try my best. At the Women's World Cup, I try my best every game," Han had said when China beat France to advance through to the Semi-Finals.

It was clear to see that she really was putting in all of effort. She ended up averaging 12.4 points (12th among all players), 8.4 rebounds (5th among all players) and 1.8 blocks (tied for most among all players) per game.

Her highlight performance was in front one of the biggest crowds of the entire competition when China played against hosts Australia in the Semi-Final. Han delivered with her best game of the competition: 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and a 5 blocks to tie the Women's World Cup record.


What also makes her such a unique and talented player aside from her height and length is her shooting ability. She put this on display time and again in Sydney and it's something that's made her one of the most efficient offensive talents at the professional level as well.

"Since I was young, shooting is always what I'm good at," Han had told FiveThirtyEight even before the World Cup.

"When [I'm] shooting, I feel like when I don't think too much [and] I don't overthink, nobody can guard me."

Because of that, she's one of the featured players on this China team with a bright future. On her way to being a cornerstone for the Women’s World Cup Finalist and the second-ranked national team in the world, it's been quite a bold journey.



It seemed as if she was destined to play basketball. Both of Han's parents were professional players in China and they didn't wait for too long to get her accustomed to the game.

"My mom brought me to her practices and [I] watched the women's team practice. Also, we watched a lot of basketball games at home," Han told SLAM in August.

Once she got a feel of how far the sport could take her, Han then had to make a decision between the two basketball career paths for Chinese aspiring basketball players.

"In China, you can either go the professional route or you can go the school route. For the professional route, there's pro youth teams for younger players that are maybe 15 years old, 16 years old," Han explains, as per SLAM. "If they choose to go to school, they can also go to high school to become a student-athlete and then graduate. Then they can go play in college."

Han decided to go pro.

"At the time, I wanted to go the pro route because I had the edge at the age of 18. I had already been invited to the Chinese national team. Since I got that invite, I wanted to become a pro," she told SLAM.

With that headstart, she quickly began to turn heads once she started representing China. First it was the U17 Women's World Cup in 2016. Then it was the FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship in that same year. A year later, it was at the U19 Women's World Cup.

Inspiring others

Han then made her senior national team debut at the Women's World Cup in 2018 and continued to make impressive strides, including a 20-point outing against USA.

Later, she was the youngest player drafted to the WNBA with the 14th pick in 2019 and her success has just been snowballing from there.

She became a TISSOT All-Star member of the Women's Asia Cup in 2019. Became an Olympian in 2021. Aside from being a World Cup Finalist as mentioned above in Sydney, Han was also named to the All-Star Five by Google among some of the best players in the world. And she'll just be turning 23 this Halloween.

Her early success both domestically, regionally, and globally (as well as her height and nationality) has resulted in some calling her the women's basketball Yao Ming.

"He had a very successful career in NBA and he also promoted the culture of the sport in China so that now, more Chinese people like to watch basketball," Han said of her childhood hero, as reported by the AP. The two have had the chance to meet in person, with Yao even offering his advice to the youngster.

This is where the two share a similarity in the sense of the impact that they have on raising the popularity of basketball in China.

"Han and Li [Yueru] have been creating hype online and offline. Many girls have been inspired by Han and Li, and we have numbers to show that more girls have started participating in basketball on all levels. We can also clearly see more news coverage and other kinds of user-generated content on China's social media platform," said China basketball analyst Michael Yuan, also as reported by AP.

More than any made shot or any blocked shot she'll record, this might be where Han Xu makes her biggest impact in basketball: as an inspiration.

At the end of the Semi-Final game between China and Australia at the World Cup, the spotlight was all on Han as she was passed on the microphone after being award the TCL Player of the Game.

"I want more people to cheer for women's basketball," she said.

Before speaking about the win, before speaking about her individual performance (as impressive both feats were), Han took the opportunity to continue promoting women's basketball when all the attention was on her.

What a journey it's been. From being a bright young talent to being a senior national team star to becoming an inspirational talent at such a young age, Han has really stood tall among her peers both in the literal and figurative sense.

And there's a lot more in her tale to tell from here on out.

As she told SLAM: "In the future, I just hope my story can inspire the next generation to believe that as long as you work hard, you can achieve anything in life - anything you want in life."