#FIBAU17: China make progress, see gap to rivals at U17 Worlds warm-up

Zhu Rongzhen is going to be a force in the middle for China
(image from FIBA)

*This first appeared on FIBA.com.

China U17 national team head coach Wang Jianjun believes his side made some real progress looking ahead to the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship by playing at the 2016 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST). 

China picked up victories over Egypt and Greece and also had close losses against Italy, the USA and Turkey in finishing eighth of 12 teams in the biennial U18 international invitational tournament held in Mannheim, Germany.

"I am very satisfied with the players' performance. They had some very good games and played the tactics we wanted to and really progressed throughout this tournament," Wang said.

The China team in Mannheim was made up of 1999-born players other than 2000-born Xu Jie at a tournament for 1998-born players. Wang wanted to give his players experience of playing against older, stronger and more advanced players - all with the thought of preparing them for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship. 

We have seen the gap between our team, the Europeans and the American team. Offensively we are not as strong as the other teams. - Wang

China led late against Italy but lost 78-74 in the first game. They then went to overtime against a select team from the USA, losing 97-89. After beating Egypt 84-73, the Chinese had their worst game in a 85-53 defeat at the hands of France before bouncing back to beat Greece 69-49 and secure third place in group play. 

China finished the tournament with an 82-75 defeat against Turkey and 83-59 loss against Australia to eighth place. 

Zhu Rongzhen, a 2.11m center who doesn't turn 17 until May 19, was named to the All-Tournament Team as well as being picked for the top young prospect in the tournament. He led the Chinese team in scoring with 14.9 points per game to go with tournament-bests 9.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He also made 79 percent of his free throws. 

Zhu was helped by the other three leaders of the team in Bai Haotian (12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals), Huang Rongqi (11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists) and scrappy diminutive point guard Xu Jie (11.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals). 

"Although Xu and Zhu played very well at this tournament, the team really needs to focus on teamwork first. The games helped teach us to play more wisely as a team," said Wang. 

The tournament also presented a good test after China finished a disappointing third at the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship in Jakarta. That marked the first time they lost a game in the competition's history after three undefeated runs to the title in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

"We encouraged them to not look at the U16 tournament but instead look forward to see a better future. They did a good job adjusting mentally to the situation," Wang explained.

The 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship will take place from 23 June-3 July in Zaragoza, Spain.

The Draw Ceremony is on Wednesday 13 April at 18:30 local time (17:30 GMT+1) in the tournament's host city.




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