Sun, 23 Jan 2022

CANBERRA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Despite uncertainty over his sprained ankle and a short break following international duties, Chinese basketball player Zhou Qi is eager to make his debut in the Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) on Saturday evening when the South East Melbourne Phoenix play the New Zealand Breakers.

"Hopefully I could improve myself, keep a good form and help the team to achieve a good result," said Zhou, who was signed by the Phoenix in September.

The 2.16-meter center helped China to defeat Japan 79-63 in their FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign last week, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds and three blocks. But he had to leave the court after spraining his ankle in the second half of the match.

In an online interview with Xinhua, Zhou said that he was feeling better. "Our team's doctor came and gave me medical treatment for three consecutive days," he said.

"His ankle's ok, it was a slight sprain, he'll be good to go, it's just working around this 72-hour quarantine he's in," said Simon Mitchell, coach of the Phoenix.

Arriving in Australia on Wednesday, Zhou just finished his 72-hour quarantine. But Mitchell had high expectation for him.

"Very agile, really high IQ player, his decision making's superb, defensively he brings that rim protection, offensively he's a great passer, good rebounder and he can score in a multitude of ways," said the coach.

"He can shoot the three-ball, he's got great touch around the rim with both hands, he's got a little bit of back to the basket game, he's a really special player."

Zhou's outstanding performance against Japan has won the hearts of many Chinese fans, who left a lot of encouraging messages on his social media account.

"Come on Zhou Qi," said a Chinese web user. "While away from home, take good care of yourself. We are waiting for you!"

Zhou said that the encouragement from his fans always motivates him to work harder.

"I would like to thank them for their support," he said. "Currently I am focused on the NBL, and will do my best to help my team to win."

Zhou played three pre-season games and scored 17 points when facing against the Illawarra Hawks. In his own words, he felt "better and better in each match".

"The pace is faster and the attack is more direct," he said. "So it requires high speed of players."

Representing both the Phoenix and the Chinese national team, Zhou's schedule was tight.

"The journey was tiring," he admitted. "But to represent a nation in whatever sport is the highest honor for an athlete."

"Wherever I am, when my name is on the national team's list, I will be there on time."

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