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Yao Ming surprised at rise of Jeremy Lin

posted 23 Feb 2012, 07:25 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 23 Feb 2012, 07:26 ]

Former China and Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming is surprised by the rise of NBA's latest sensation Jeremy Lin.

Former Chinese and NBA basketball star Yao Ming said on Wednesday (February 22) that he was surprised at the rise of New York Knicks Asian-American point guard Jeremy Lin.
The soft-spoken 23-year-old from Harvard went undrafted and was cut by Golden State and Houston before finding a place at the end of the Knicks bench in December.

Given his chance, Lin seized the NBA spotlight with both hands, and has inspired the Knicks with a string of stunning performances.

Yao said he had known Lin to be a good player but was stunned by Lin's recent game-winning displays that had taken the NBA by storm.

"I am very surprised (about Jeremy Lin). I am very surprised but also very happy. I did not think that he would play so well. When he played well in his first game (for the New York Knicks), I thought this was a great start and perhaps he would soon have more of a stable game time. But I never thought he would perform up to such levels as he had today," he told Reuters during an interview in Shanghai.

Lin has said he communicates often with Yao in Shanghai, a person he regards as a role model in his career.

Yao said he did not have much advice for the rising star because of their different backgrounds but had always encouraged and cheered him on.

"First, New York and Houston are different. Also, the cultures of the two basketball teams are different, the cities are different, the teammates he faces are different, so I don't wish to tell him too much. If I do so, perhaps I will give him too much pressure. But I believe he will cope well. I want to say most of my communication to him is of encouragement and congratulations, it is just that simple," he said.

Lin rise to fame has become the sensation of an NBA season blighted earlier by delays after a lockout between club owners and players.

The 6ft 3in (1.91m) Lin was not recruited by any of the major U.S. college basketball powers despite leading Palo Alto High School to a 33-1 record and the state championship.

He was twice named to the all-Ivy League team but went undrafted in 2010 by NBA teams.

Yao said Lin's form and stardom has forced many, including China, to look at how they select and train basketball players.

"This is something else that Jeremy Lin has brought to us. It has given us something to reflect on, on whether there are imperfections over the development and selection process for our basketball players over the past ten or twenty years," he said.

Yao is a Shanghai native and was a stalwart of the national basketball team before he retired from professional basketball last year due to injuries.

The former Houston Rockets centre has since embarked on a new journey in his life, going hands-on as the owner of a Chinese basketball league team, taking part in animal conservation projects, launching his self-branded wine label as well as going back to studies in university.

He said he is coping well juggling all the duties of his multi-faceted life.

"I am just doing different things during different times. Of course, you would need to have a good plan to juggle all these duties. I am lucky to have and work with very good friends and business partners around me," he said.

He described his life today as more of a long distance run compared to a sprint when he was still playing basketball.

"Perhaps in the past it felt like I was doing the 100m sprint, but now I feel I am more of a long distance runner. For the 100m, you need to just spend a short time doing the sprint, and for the rest of time, you can choose to walk, jog or even lay on the ground and not move. For now, my working hours are getting stretched everyday, but in terms of individual units, you don't have to be move as fast as sprinting," he said.

Yao was the flag-bearer for China in its most successful Olympics in Beijing and when asked of his role in the next Games, he said he had promised to do some commentary work for the basketball games in London.

He urged China's basketball team players to do their best for the country during the London Games.

"Being in the Olympics is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many people can have the chance to participate in the Olympics for three or four times. For me, I had been to three Olympics Games. So once you are in the Olympics, you have to try your best and also try to fulfill the team's biggest potential to get the best results," he said.

China's national basketball team is becoming accustomed to life without the prodigious talents of the retired Yao Ming.

They reached the quarter-finals on home soil with Yao in Beijing four years ago and came through a tricky transition to regain the Asia championship title in Wuhan last September and qualify for London.