If you’re wondering why star center prospect Qi Zhou didn’t dominate for gold medal-winning China at the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, it’s because he didn’t have to: Team China breezed to their 11th Asia U18 title with an average winning margin of 43 points in nine games. It would have been higher had the final not been so low-scoring – a 66-48 win over Iran. The final was never in doubt, however, as China led 22-12 after one quarter and 36-19 at the half. China won their first eight games before the final by an average of 46 points with the closest game being a 27-point blowout of South Korea in the game to decide first place in the second round Group E.
All that meant that China, who won their third straight U18 title, didn’t need much from Qi, who is considered one of the top 1996-born prospects in all of Asia and was playing in his second FIBA Asia U18s.
Sure, he averaged 13.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 3.0 blocks while shooting 71 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free throw line. But he got those numbers in less than 19 minutes per game.
Qi’s best game was against Chinese Taipei in the semi-finals as he had 13 points and 17 rebounds. He also collected 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and seven blocks in the important game against South Korea.In limited minutes in the final — the official FIBA Asia writeup on the game notes that “the most accomplished player in the entire competition … made his appearance on court only at the beginning of the second quarter” but “used his time on the court to finish with a game-high 16 points.” Not to mention adding six rebounds, two steals and four blocks.
Qi’s top scoring output was 21 points against India but he also had three games with less than 10 points – but he shot a combined 10-of-12 from the field in scoring those 26 points.
By making the final, China along with Iran and third-placed finisher South Korea qualified for the 2015 U19 World Championship. And that’s when Qi will face his next real test. Now he has to go to his club and work on continuing his development.
After observing Qi last summer at the U19 Worlds – two years younger at the competition – I personally did not see the 2.17-meter (7’2”) big man in 2014 since he wasn’t included on the Albert Schweitzer Tournament team, with China using the U18 tournament as preparation for the team going to the U17 Worlds in Dubai, where they finished seventh.
And Qi still has a great set of tools to work with in addition to his amazing length. He has good shot blocking instincts, can put the ball on the floor a bit. He was working on going both right and left in the post. He isn’t afraid to go up to the rim against more solid opponents – at either end of the floor. But he definitely needed to work on adding strength and mass to his very long and slender body. Without being in Doha for the Asia U18s, it’s hard to say where is at physically, but he’s likely working on that as well as his game.