By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another episode of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the start of a new professional basketball league in Asia getting a boost from an NBA star, the rise of a new Chinese tennis star, and a startling diagnosis for a golfer.
Green joins East Asia Super League as ambassador
Coming off a successful rookie season with the Houston Rockets in the NBA, Jalen Green announced that he’s partnering with the new East Asia Super League, as an ambassador for the up-and-coming league. Green joins former NBA stars Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, and Shane Battier.
The East Asia Super League is an 8-team, pan-regional league that will start this fall and feature the winners and runners-up from the Japanese, South Korean, and Philippines leagues, as well as the Taiwanese champions and the Bay Area Dragons, a roster of players from across greater China based in Manila.
Green, whose mother is Filipino, became the highest-drafted Asian American player in the NBA when the Rockets selected him second overall in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Green made the NBA’s All-Rookie team this past season. Similar to the fandom Jordan Clarkson received when he entered the NBA, Green received adoration from a multitude of Filipino fans. Green first recognized this when he played in Manila in 2019 for the U.S. junior national team in a tournament.
“I want to be an inspiration for the next generation of hoopers in Asia and elevate the game in the region,” Green told NBC Sports. “I see the East Asia Super League as the gateway for Asia players to make it in the NBA.”
Green will be featured in marketing for the new league, as well as making appearances on its behalf in promoting the product.
Pro Golfer Kang grits out play with tumor on her spine
29-year-old golf pro Danielle Kang was diagnosed with a tumor on her spine last month. Despite the diagnosis, the Las Vegas resident played the U.S. Women’s Open in early June.
“I wasn’t scared of the result,” Kang told ESPN of learning of the diagnosis, “I was more scared of not being able to play.” Kang made changes to her pre-round routine in order to get ready for playing 18-holes with her back issue. This included more exercises prior to playing golf to “activate her back.” After she is done with the 18 holes, she and her physiotherapist do more exercises to care for her back. She admits that the pain is tough while she plays golf. At this point, she is unclear about the diagnosis of the tumor, including whether she will need surgery to remove it.
Kang, who won the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship, stated that she was disappointed with her score, although her team and family told her not to worry about where she placed.
Kang was born to South Korean parents. She played golf at Pepperdine University for two years before she turned pro in 2011. She joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour in 2012. Her brother Alex also played golf at San Diego State.
A new Chinese tennis star emerges but can’t go home
Zheng “Ana” Qinwen could be the next women’s tennis superstar from China. The 19-year-old with a powerful forehand made her debut at this year’s French Open and upset 20th ranked (in the world) Simona Halep.
Known as Ana by her Western friends, Qinwen gravitated toward tennis as a young child due to the success of women’s tennis star Li Na. Na was the first Grand Slam singles champion and one of the highest-earning female athletes on the tour. It was Na’s success and popularity for which the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) decided to hold more events and promote the sport in China.
However, the WTA suspended all tournaments in China due to the allegations that Peng Shuai, another successful women’s Chinese player, accused a Chinese official of sexual assault. Peng was censored by Chinese officials and mysteriously disappeared from public view for several weeks before she re-emerged and stated that her allegations were misinterpreted. While the issue has not been discussed publicly in several months, the WTA still holds a ban on any events in China.
Moreover, they have not been able to speak to Peng directly and believe that she was influenced to change her story.
As a result, Qinwen cannot play in front of her home country due to the ban. She trains in Spain and lives away from home. Qinwen was born in Shiyan, a city in Central China. She was encouraged by her parents to choose a sport at a very early age. Tennis became that sport and her father sent her away to train at 8 years old in Wuhan, a city approximately 250 miles from her home. The hard work away from her family paid off as she was discovered by IMG Academy at an event in Bradenton, Florida and was signed at the age of 11. She was then shipped to Beijing to train with the Academy.
Qinwen’s play is still growing and all of her training is occurring mostly away from her family due to the current ban from the WTA.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.