Almost One Year After the Turnover, Zhou Qi Finally Speaks Up

Zhouqi talks with reporters in 2016 (Source: Associated Press)

In a recent interview with Chinese media, Chinese basketball player Zhou Qi spoke about his experience in the China FIBA World Cup last year, including the turnover in the final seconds of the game against Poland which drew criticism about his professional attitude, and his commitment to the game.

With 7.2 seconds left in the game, China was leading by 1 point. Responsible for inbounding the basketball, Zhou Qi turned the ball over which led to a fastbreak opportunity for the Polish team and ultimately caused China to lose that crucial game to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

After falling to Poland, China lost to Venezuela in the final game in the group stage. Despite defeating South Korea in the subsequent classification game, China lost to Nigeria in its final game in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

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As Iran had a better record in the FIBA World Cup tournament, China lost its opportunity to directly qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. China might still have an opportunity to qualify in the final stages of the Olympics by winning the qualification tournament against 5 other teams around the world. The qualification game was scheduled in June 2020 but was postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“I think this is a kind of experience in life. It does not matter whether it is good or bad. After going through that, there will be some growth (in my game).” Speaking to media for the first time on that key turnover in the FIBA World Cup, Zhou Qi brought up his thoughts on that particular moment for the first time since the turnover: “Because that was a really silly mistake. I definitely understand the criticism, and I shouldn’t have made that mistake.”

When asked about the impacts of that turnover in his professional playing career, Zhou said that it is time to get over the mistake and move on: “I feel like that I am not the kind of person who likes to talk about the level of pains I went through. It is irrelevant. When facing problems, it is more essential to solving them.”

Zhou also responded to an earlier picture of him in 2015. The Chinese basketball player was caught buying an egg crepe at a local diner. Zhou faced criticism for lacking professional commitment and not following proper nutritional guidance. Throughout his professional career, Zhou Qi was considered to be an underweight player who should build more muscle to be more competitive.

“I was doing a physical examination and the hospital required me not to eat anything.” Zhou revealed more details on an online streaming show with fans: “The cafeteria only opens for lunch, and after the physical examination it was only 9 am. So I had to find something to eat.”

The 24-year-old spent three seasons in the Chinese Basketball Association team Xinjiang Flying Tigers before entering the NBA. In 2016, Zhou Qi was drafted by the Houston Rockets as the 46th pick. Zhou Qi played a few games for the Rockets over two seasons but spent most of his time in the NBA G League team Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Zhou Qi played a total of 19 NBA regular-season games with an average of 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Zhou Qi also appeared in three NBA playoff games in 2018, but only scored a total of 2 points and 1 rebound in the entire series.

“I wanted to be better.” When speaking of his NBA experience, Zhou hoped to have another opportunity to return to the NBA: “It is something that people would not know without actually experiencing it.”

Despite facing harsh criticism, Zhou Qi remains one of the most promising basketball players in China. Zhou won a CBA championship title in 2017, a FIBA Asia Cup championship in 2015 and a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games with the Chinese National Basketball team. Zhou’s talent and efforts were widely recognized in the game against South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup group stage. China came back from a 20-point deficit and defeated the South Korean team. Zhou Qi scored a team-high 21 points with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Contrary to his mistake in 2019, Zhou handled the final seconds in the game in a much better way by receiving the inbounded ball and made two free throws after getting fouled.

In addition, Zhou Qi was selected for the CBA all-star games three times from 2015 to 2017. Zhou was also selected for the 2015 CBA rookie of the year, the 2017 CBA defensive player of the year, and CBA shot blocks leader in 2015 and 2016.

Following his disappointing NBA journey, Zhou Qi returned to his home team Xinjiang Flying Tigers in 2019 and is currently working on winning another championship title for Xinjiang: “I think everyone wants to win the championship. Personally, I will always work hard to reach that goal. Xinjiang is a young team. This is also the goal for our entire team.” Xinjiang is confirmed to finish the remaining of the CBA season without any foreign players. According to the latest changes in the rules of the CBA tournament, teams with two foreign players will face limitations when facing teams like Xinjiang that have no foreign players.

In the 2019-2020 CBA season, Zhou Qi had 20.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game. Zhou started in all 25 games he played and played an average of 33.3 minutes per game.

The CBA tournament is scheduled to resume in two Chinese cities starting from June 20. Spectators will not be permitted to enter the arenas and media must practice physical distancing when interviewing players and coaching staff.