South East Melbourne Phoenix have recruited a former Chinese NBA star with the ambition of returning to the best league in the world.
The NBL’s Asian connection continues to grow, with Chinese international center Zhou Qi choosing South East Melbourne Phoenix as their best path back to the NBA.
Drafted by the Houston Rockets in 43rd overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, the 216cm tall man has been a regular member of the Chinese national team since his debut in 2014.
In a deal hailed by Phoenix officials as “monumental,” Qi accepted a two-year deal, the second year as a player option.
He returned to the Chinese Basketball Association for the 2019-20 season with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, where he averaged 20.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.5 blocks. per game.
The 25-year-old has already built a solid resume, winning a CBA championship title in 2017, a FIBA Asia Cup championship in 2015 and a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games with the team. Chinese.
Qi has signed with the Phoenix under the NBL Restricted Player Special Rule like fellow Chinese international Chuanxing at the Brisbane Bullets and will join the team in Australia as soon as the visa process is complete and flights are arranged.
The Chinese star believes the NBL is the perfect launching pad to reinvigorate his NBA career.
“I am thrilled to be joining South East Melbourne Phoenix, I felt my best chance to come back to the NBA was to join the Phoenix,” said Qi, who played 19 NBA games with the Rockets between 2017 and 2019.
“The whole process has been one of the most professional of my career, I am very grateful to owner Romie Chaudhari and CEO Tommy Greer for making my decision so easy.”
Greer is committed to helping Qi achieve his NBA aspirations.
“His dream is to come back to the NBA and we will do everything we can to help him get there,” said Greer.
“Zhou joining the NBL will literally add millions and millions of eyeballs to our team and to the league.
“At 7ft 1m, Zhou’s skill set is something we’ve never had before; we believe he can help us consolidate our position at the top of the NBL this year.
“With our last year’s playmaker Keifer Sykes starting training camp with the Indiana Pacers this week, we’ve shown as a club that we can do it.
“Not only is this a fantastic signing for us as a team, but it’s also a game-changing addition for the NBL. Zhou is an absolute superstar in China and having him in the NBL is huge. ”
Chaudhari described the signing as revolutionary and as a signal to the NBL that the Phoenix are “all in”.
“The signing of a Chinese player from Zhou’s credentials is a landmark decision for the Phoenix and the NBL,” Chaudhari said.
“Bringing Zhou into the NBL further expands the league and the club’s international presence – this signing makes the Phoenix a real player on the world stage. “
Chinese connections for the Phoenix go back to their inaugural season.
The team’s first matches were on a pre-season tour of China, while their first competitive game on Australian soil was against the Chinese ABC team, the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions.
Qi will join his national team for the World Cup qualifying period Nov. 22-30, then return to Phoenix.
NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger hailed Qi’s signing as a revolutionary for the Australian league.
“We are delighted that Zhou Qi has chosen to play in the NBL with the Phoenix,” Loeliger said.
“The fact that a player of Zhou’s caliber comes to the NBL says a lot about the league’s standing in world basketball.
Earlier this week, Chinese national team member Chuanxing Liu signed with the Brisbane Bullets and Zhou’s signing reaffirms the NBL as a destination of choice for Chinese players looking to take the next step in their careers . “
Qi joins a Phoenix lineup that includes Xavier Munford, Cam Gliddon, Ryan Broekhoff, Mitch Creek, Kyle Adnam, Izayah Le’afa, Dane Pineau, Reuben Te Rangi and Tohi Smith-Milner.