2 Zhou Qi works out for Phoenix Suns
Arizona State’s Eric Jacobsen is a 6 foot 10 man accustomed to having his outstretched arm affect an opponent’s perimeter shot with his hand near the release.
Not so on Saturday when he defended 7 foot 2 Zhou Qi during a Suns draft workout at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“Usually, my hand is up by the ball but I was getting up to his face and the ball was way up there,” Jacobsen said, looking toward the practice court ceiling.
Zhou Qi (pronounced “Joe Chee”) can touch the rim from his tiptoes. In draft combine history, Qi’s 7 7 wingspan was second only to Utah center Rudy Gobert’s 7 8 .
Pair that size with being startlingly skilled and the Suns seem fortunate to be one of four teams that Qi has given a pre draft workout before he returns to China to prepare for the Olympics with his national team.
RELATED:Suns look at draft prospects on the bubble
“He’s not a hidden guy who hasn’t played and just shows up over here,” Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly said. “He’s put up a pretty good resume for his age. It’s good to get him in there.”
Qi, 20, jumped onto NBA teams’ radars in 2011 with a 43 point, 19 rebound game against South Korea at the Asia Under 16 Championships. He signed with Zinjiang in 2014 and averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and a Chinese Basketball Association best 3.2 blocks this season.cheap jerseys
Qi is intriguingly agile and mobile for a 7 2 man but only weighed 218 pounds at his May 12draft combine weigh in, even after adding 10 pounds in the previous five months. He had been doing some individual training in Phoenix before working out for Boston, which has three first round and five second round picks, and Memphis, which has two first round picks and one second rounder. He has one more unknown workout set in the West.
Zhou Qi at the Suns training facility. (Photo: Paul Coro/azcentral sports)
The Suns draft at Nos. 4, 13, 28 and 34. Qi could be an ideal draft and stash candidate to continue physical and basketball development overseas but it is still to be determined if he wants to come to the NBA immediately.
MORE: Download our Suns XTRA appiOSAndroid
“I’m ready,” Qi declared at that draft combine through a translator.
Qi speaks “basketball English” but was unavailable to be interviewed at his Saturday workout.
“This is a very precious opportunity for me, an experience for me,” Qi said at the draft combine through his translator. “I learned a lot about the draft process with the agility testing, and also the shooting testing and training. Everything is systematic and scientific, so I like the process.”
Qi showed his soft shooting touch at the combine when he made 14 of 25 spot up 3 pointers from five points on the arc. He had a standing vertical leap of 31 inches, which is impressive for a 7 2 man with underdeveloped strength.
RELATED:NBA mock draft: Paul Coro’s first edition
“He got me a couple times on those turnarounds,” Jacobsen said. “He’s a lot longer than I thought he’d be. Usually guys his size and young like he is aren’t athletic as him.”
With Xinjiang, he teamed with former and current NBA players Andray Blatche, Andrew Goudelock and Bryce Cotton this season. He is skilled with either hand and protects the rim from the weak side, although CBA stats are skewed when considering Michael Beasley averaged 32 points and 13 rebounds there this season.
“They do a lot of training in China,” Connelly said. “He’s benefited from the many, many hours spent in the gym working on his skill set.”
The Suns pitted him against Jacobsen, a 240 pounder who is turning 22 soon.
RELATED:Suns visitors test new draft early entry rule
“See how he bangs against a guy like Eric, who is really strong,” Connelly said. “How he dealt with the contact. How he kind of moved around with a guy pushing his back. You can see that stuff on tape but it’s always good to see a guy come in and get an appreciation for how a guy takes the contact, which will be important for him going forward. He did well.”
There has not been a significant draft prospect from China since Yi Jianlian, another skilled 7 footer who was drafted sixth overall at age 19 by Milwaukee in 2007. He lasted five years in the NBA, averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds.
The tremendous marketing reach in China is undeniable. The NBA says that 300 million people play basketball in China. Having the “Big Devil King,” as CBA fans call the stoic 7 footer, would allow his NBA team to tap more into that market for corporate partnerships, just as Houston did with Yao Ming.