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China's Zhou Qi (No 15) in action against Venezuela in the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup in China. Photo: Reuters

Ex-Houston Rocket Zhou Qi joins NBL’s South East Melbourne Phoenix to fire NBA dream

  • CBA contract rebel ditches China for Australia – ‘I felt my best chance of getting back to the NBA was to join the Phoenix’
  • ‘Zhou joining the NBL will literally add millions and millions of eyeballs to our team and the league,’ says Phoenix CEO

China national team star Zhou Qi has signed for the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Australia’s National Basketball League, drawing an end to speculation over his future.

Zhou refused to play for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association in the upcoming season after a contract dispute and the 25-year-old follows Liu Chuanxing to the NBL.
Liu signed for the Brisbane Bullets on Tuesday after leaving the Qingdao Doublestar Eagles, with the 2.26-metre centre becoming the tallest player in NBL history.

Ex-Houston Rockets player Zhou, who was drafted at No 43 by Yao Ming’s former team in 2016, has said that the NBL will help him achieve his dream of getting back to the NBA.

“I’m excited to be joining the South East Melbourne Phoenix, I felt my best chance of getting back to the NBA was to join the Phoenix,” the 2.16-metre Zhou said.

“It’s nice for me to join a team who represents an area with such a strong and vibrant Chinese community,” he added.

China’s ‘Big Liu’ moves to NBL, Zhou Qi to follow: reports

The Phoenix were delighted with signing Zhou, who has represented the Chinese national team since 2014, the same year he broke into the Flying Tigers team.

“Signing a Chinese player of Zhou’s credentials is a landmark move for the Phoenix and the NBL,” Phoenix owner Romie Chaudhari said.

“Bringing Zhou to the NBL further expands the league and the club’s international presence – this signing makes the Phoenix a real player on the global stage,” he said.

Phoenix CEO Tommy Greer also talked up Zhou’s signing, saying the Chinese national team star can bring success on and off the court for the team.

“At 7 foot 1 Zhou’s skill set is something we haven’t had before, we think he can help us cement our position at the top of the NBL this year,” Greer said.

“His dream is to get back to the NBA and we’ll do everything we can to help him achieve that. With our starting point guard from last year Keifer Sykes starting training camp with the Indiana Pacers this week, we’ve shown as a club we can make that happen.

“Not only is it a fantastic signing for us as a team, it’s a game-changing addition to the NBL. Zhou is an absolute superstar in China and to have him in the NBL is enormous. Zhou joining the NBL will literally add millions and millions of eyeballs to our team and the league.”

Zhou’s arrival was also welcomed by NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger.

“We are thrilled that Zhou Qi has chosen to play in the NBL with the Phoenix. To have a player of Zhou’s calibre come to the NBL speaks volumes of the league’s standing in global basketball.

“Earlier this week Chinese national team member Chuanxing Liu signed with the Brisbane Bullets and Zhou’s signing reaffirms the NBL as a prime destination for Chinese players looking to make the next step in their career.”

The NBL said that Zhou will arrive once his visa application is completed and he can arrange flights, though he will be available for China’s national team during the Fiba World Cup qualifying window in late November before returning to his club.

Zhou’s stats in the CBA last season were 20.7 average points per game, 2.7 assists per game and 11.9 rebounds per game.

The 25-year-old won the CBA title with Xinjiang in 2017 and won basketball gold with China at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
He was also part of the team that failed to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer, coming unstuck against Canada and Greece in the final qualifying play-offs.

Zhou’s time in the NBA saw him play 19 games before he was waived by the Rockets in December 2018.