By Charles Vanegas
Last week, Ryerson Athletics announced the men’s basketball team would be hosting the Chinese Junior National Team at its annual National Invitational Tournament (NIT) being held Dec. 28-30. Rams’ head coach Roy Rana, who is also coach of the Canadian Junior National Team, was able to facilitate the visit through a contact with the Toronto Raptors. Rana said participation by the Chinese team would be beneficial to all parties involved.
“For them it’s great preparation [for the 2013 FIBA World U19 Championship], and for the other teams in the tournament, it’s an opportunity to play some of the best talent in the world,” said Rana. “China has some legitimate big time talent, so it should be a lot of fun.”
The Chinese roster will include 16-year-old Zhou Qi (pronounced “Joe Chee”), who is considered by many to be the future of Chinese basketball. After posting 41 points, 28 rebounds and 15 blocks in the semi-finals of an international under 16 tournament, Zhou has already begun drawing comparisons to China’s most successful basketball star, eight-time NBA all-star Yao Ming.
At 6’7″ and 6’9″, Rams forwards Bjorn Michaelsen and Nem Stankovic will have the unenviable task of guarding the 7’1″ Zhou. But Michaelsen said he is more excited for the experience and less worried about a potential mismatch.
“It is always fun playing basketball against different cultures, [because it’s a] different style of play. For Zhou Qi, it is going to be fun to play with someone of his size and talent,” he said. “[I’m going to] just play hard and physical and [try not to] pick up fouls.”
Other teams participating in the Ryerson NIT will be McGill University, Centennial College, Guelph University, McMaster University, UPEI and Humber College.