By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This time, we take a look at a monumental moment in the NBA for Filipino fans, the next great Asian basketball star makes an interesting move, and Nathan Chen is back on track.
The next Yao Ming?
Fanbo Zeng, a 6’11” Chinese basketball NBA hopeful, signed with the G League Ignite.
Previously, Zeng was scheduled to play NCAA basketball with Gonzaga. However, he spurned the Zags in order to play for the Ignite, with the hopes of making it to the NBA.
The G League Ignite was created for elite-only prospects that might not be ready for the league, but do not want to go back to school.
One of the perks of the G League Ignite is that Zeng is a professional and is being paid to play in the league, as well as take advantage of increased marketing opportunities.
This includes a potential monster shoe deal due in part to his ever-increasing following of Chinese fans that see him as the next Yao Ming.
Zeng attended Windermere Prep outside Orlando, Florida, where he was a top, sought-after recruit before he flew back to China when schools shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic.
Zeng grew up in a city in northeast China as the son of two former professional basketball players. He moved to Beijing to train with a youth club when he was just 11 years old. Three years later, he was selected to attend the United States Basketball Academy. The organization, based out of a small town 47 miles east of Eugene, Oregon, taught English and basketball to Asian-born players. After a year, he was directed to attend Windermere Prep, which houses 100 Chinese boarding students.
After a year of acclimating himself to the school and adjusting to life in America, Zeng became one of the top high school basketball players in the state of Florida. But, due to the pandemic, Zeng completed high school online from home in China. Despite the lack of basketball and being in the U.S., he was offered a scholarship by Gonzaga. But when the assistant coach that recruited Zeng to Gonzaga left for another job, he reconsidered his commitment to play college basketball.
Filipino Night at the Rockets game brings milestone
The Houston Rockets held a Filipino Heritage Night at a recent game versus the Jazz.
The significance of the matchup was that it was the first time in the history of the NBA that two Filipino players matched up on the court. Rockets rookie Jalen Green and Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson are both of Filipino descent. Green’s mother and grandfather are Filipino, while Clarkson’s mother is from the Philippines.
The Rockets passed out T-shirts with Green’s No. 0 for fans. Green, just 19 years old, was the second overall pick in this past summer’s NBA draft. Clarkson, who has a strong following in the Philippines, has intimated that he would like to play for Team Philippines in the Olympics.
“The Filipino fans have been supporting me since my sophomore year [in high school],” Green said. Coincidentally it was his sophomore year in high school that he first visited the Philippines.
“I have a lot of fans over there. They always show me a lot of love and it means a lot.”
Clarkson added, “It’s very cool that it’s the first time that this has happened. It’s a stepping stone and an inspiration for young Filipino Americans.”
Chen bounces back
A week after finishing third in the Skate America figure skating competition, three-time World Champion and Olympian Nathan Chen came back with a first-place performance at Skate Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. Chen’s third-place finish was the first time he did not finish in first place in 14 straight events.
Chen was able to return to his winning ways even without his coach, who was forced to watch from the crowd after an inadvertent violation of COVID-19 protocols at the event.
Chen’s finish at Skate America was taken in stride as he fell behind fellow American Vincent Zhou of San Jose, California and Japan’s Shoma Uno.
As the Beijing Winter Olympics near this February, look for Chen to be among the contenders in the men’s figure skating events.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.