Follow FIBA on Facebook
Portrait in Action: China's Powerful Pivots
BEIJING (China) - One conclusion drawn by all at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade is that China will be a major factor in Sydney.
In Serbia, they had depth. They played with energy and passion. They were hard to guard, and they also guarded hard! For Nigeria, Mali and France, it was a case of picking their poison.
Should they guard the perimeter or collapse in the paint and take away in the inside scoring of the 2.01m (6ft 7in) Li Yueru and the 2.06m (6ft 9in) Han Xu? China shot an eye-popping 49.% from 3-point range, so all three adversaries had to get hands in the faces of shooters, yet that meant more opportunities for the centers, Li and Han.
"Portrait in Action" is a feature where some of the most outstanding talents around the world are highlighted, putting on display what they can do on the court that makes them must-watch candidates. Make sure to consistently check the FIBA.basketball website for "Portraits in Action" of your favorite players.
If the temptation was to utilize both at the same time in order to give China an intimidating height advantage over opponents, coach Wei Zheng resisted. She never had twin towers on the court as China ran roughshod over their opponents. They beat Nigeria (90-76), Mali (84-64) and France (103-70).
Li rules down low
Li frequently established position in the low post and proved a reliable source of points, scoring with both hands. She made 19 of 31 (61.3%) of her shots, the majority around the basket. If Li wasn't scoring, she was helping her teammates do so with passed to China's shooters when defenses collapsed. She had three assists against France.
Li Yueru rock solid on D, and the boards
Li was formidable on defense in Belgrade, where she took up space with her big, strong frame and got steals and deflections by keeping her hands up. Though she had just one block, against France, she affected other shots. From a rebounding standpoint, Li was also quick to the ball on both ends of the floor, averaging 8.0 rebounds per game in the qualifying tournament. She had 11 rebounds in the win over Mali.
China wave their magic Han
There is much to like about Han on offense, from her movement off the ball in order to get open and her hustle down the floor on fast breaks to her shooting accuracy (she made 13 of 21 from the floor in Belgrade). Han shot 61.9% while scoring with short- and mid-range turnaround jumpers and also from deep. A player with the softest of shooting touches, Han avoided turnovers by catching the ball high and keeping it high so defenders did not strip her.
Quick on D, and to the rebound
Han cut an imposing figure in the lane in Belgrade, making opponents think twice before they drove and took her on. She was an obstacle purely because of her height and length, and that impacted shots. The 22-year-old had the advantage, when being boxed out, of reaching her long arms over the opponent to get rebounds and not be called for going over the back. She was quick to make outlet passes to trigger fast breaks.
What a formidable duo that basketball fans, especially Chinese fans, can't wait to see in Sydney at the World Cup.