Zhou Qi Joins Liaoning Flying Leopards, Preps For FIBA Worlds
Former NBA player Zhou Qi will take his act to the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and play for the Liaoning Flying Leopards. However, the former Houston Rocket cannot suit up for this season since he is not pre-registered.
After being waived by the Rockets last December, Zhou went back to China. Several CBA teams expressed interest in the 23-year-old cager, and it was only recently where rumors of his tie-up with the Flying Leopards had been confirmed.
According to Xinhua, reports last January claimed that Zhou had already signed a four-year contract with the defending champions Liaoning. When word of that came out, the Flying Leopards denied the claim.
Now almost a month after, Tencent Sports said that Zhou Qi has arrived in Shenyang from Houston earlier this week where he was warmly welcomed by heads of the Flying Leopards. He will join the team and train with the Chinese national team which is preparing for the next round of the qualifications for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Championships, CGTN said.
Zhou Qi previously suited up for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers which he led to the CBA title during the 2016-17 season. He was also named Defensive Player of the Year at the time. After that, he would bring his act to the NBA. He ended up with the Houston Rockets, the same team Yao Ming played for.
Heading back to China loomed as the logical option for Zhou. After being waived, he was also affected was his P-1 visa for athletes. Though he stayed on with hopes of getting picked up by another team, it never happened with no ballclub willing to handle the paperwork and have his visa reactivated.
Zhou Qi is expected to be a big boost for the Chinese national team for the FIBA World Cup, which will start in China on Aug. 31. During the 2018 Asian Games, Zhou seemed to run out of gas in the end for China, raising questions on his playing condition. All that should be addressed now, with China expected to benefit immensely.
On the financial aspect, moving back to CBA is seen as the best move for the 7-foot-1 cager. Among the CBA teams, only Liaoning can offer him a good package than NBA teams. Though he cannot suit up because the league is already in midseason, the Flying Leopards should be a team to watch out for next time around.
He is only 23 years old and thus has his whole career ahead to help Liaoning establish a new dynasty.