Yao spearheads China’s Olympic basketball quest
BEIJING: Houston Rockets’ center Yao Ming will spearhead the Chinese men’s basketball team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but there is no room for trailblazing Miami Heat star Wang Zhizhi.
The 12-strong squad also includes Menk Bateer, a veteran of China’s 1996 and 2000 Olympic campaigns who last year played for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, the Xinhua news agency said. China’s sports bosses have tasked the national side, under newly appointed American coach Del Harris, with entering the elite top eight teams at the Olympics. But it will be a tough ask with China in a group of first round matches that includes World Champion Serbia-Montenegro, Spain, Italy, Argentina and New Zealand, with only the top four advancing. The Xinhua report confirmed that Wang, the first player from China to break into the NBA, remains out in the cold after his refusal to play for the national team at the 2002 World Championships and last year’s Asian championships. Wang has failed to return to China amid fears that his status as a soldier would prevent him from returning to his lucrative NBA career. As a former player for the Bayi military basketball club and a lieutenant colonel in the People’s Liberation Army, Wang has been dangerously close of being absent-without-leave (AWOL) as he has pursued his NBA career. A leading sports official in March had left the door ajar, saying it was still possible for Wang to play at the Olympics. afp