Han Xu of China poses for a photo with a basketball before the WNBA women's basketball draft in New York, US, April 10, 2019. （Photo/Xinhua）
First time two national team players selected by US-based pro league
With a towering frame and versatile skill set reminiscent of Yao Ming, teenage center Han Xu is determined to make her presence felt in the Women's National Basketball Association.
Thursday (Beijing time) marked the first time two members of China's national team－Han and forward Li Yueru－were selected in the WNBA draft, with the New York Liberty taking Han 14th overall and the Atlanta Dream making Li the 35th selection.
Han became just the second player from China drafted directly to the league after Zheng Haixia was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks (16th overall) in the inaugural WNBA draft in 1997.
Three other Chinese players－Sui Feifei, Miao Lijie and Chen Nan－previously played in the WNBA.
Han said the efforts of her senior compatriots inspired her to follow their path to the US pro league.
Han Xu (R) of China poses for a photo with WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth after being selected by the New York Liberty in the second round of the WNBA women's basketball draft in New York, US, April 10, 2019. （Photo/Xinhua）
"It's my dream to make my way to the WNBA and follow their steps. Because of them, I feel less pressure to play in the best league in the world," said Han, who has been training at UCLA since early March to prepare for the draft.
At 6-foot-9, with a soft shooting touch and deceptive mobility, Han's skill set is obvious－but her thin frame could prove vulnerable in the trenches.
"I'm young, I can run, and I'm tall so I can rebound and shoot from everywhere on the court," said Han, who speaks some English but also has a translator to help.
"I've been working hard to become stronger as my physical strength is a weakness at the moment. An American trainer has made a plan for me to put on more muscle, and that will be my priority."
Graduated from the renowned basketball program at Tsinghua University High School in 2017, Han joined Xinjiang of the Women's Chinese Basketball Association last season, averaging 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds en route to earning All-Star honors and being named to the national team.