With a solid senior domestic roster to build upon and an extremely promising U-16 youth team highlighted by China’s most intriguing seven foot prospect, Zhou Qi, Liaoning PanPan is focusing their energy on returning the senior team to its glory days of years past while also developing its youth with an eye on the future.
Equipped with Guo Ailun, Li Xioaxu and Han Dejun, Liaoning’s senior team has a talented young core that would have likely made the playoffs this season if the team hadn’t decided to dismiss Chris Richard and Donta Smith for three games — all which resulted in losses — in late January. If Liaoning can get their act together next season and sign two decent imports, not a given considering their reputation in that department, the Dinosaurs will no doubt be a top-eight team.
Liaoning’s U-16s are also being watched quite closely. Besides having a chance to play starring roles with the senior team in a few years, Liaoning’s third team will have a chance to bring the all important “glory” to their province when they participate in the prestigious 2013 National Games, which will be held in Liaoning province’s capital city, Shenyang. Likely not a coincidence, the 12th edition of the National Games will feature a U-18 basketball tournament. As Zhou Qi, and his promising point-guard teammate, Zhao Ziwei, will be mature enough to play by then, Liaoning is already being dubbed as the early odds on favorite.
But, remember: This is “basketball with Chinese characteristics,” and that means under all of the resources being piled onto these two teams, somebody is probably getting screwed. And as it turns out, somebody is getting screwed — the team stuck in the middle of all this excitement, Liaoning’s second team.
According to a story released today in the Southern Metropolis Daily (via NetEase), the second team has been completely neglected and ignored by the franchise’s higher ups at the expense of these other interests.
Said second team head coach, Dong Shusui, “I have never been in communication with either senior or third team coaches. They don’t come over here where we are, and I don’t go over there where they are. Right now I’m with this team. I have no say about who gets promoted to the senior team. I have no control over who gets sent down to the third team. Everything in that respect has already been set for this year.”
“The core of Liaoning’s work is centered on the first and third teams,” said an anonymous figure inside the second team. “At present, this group of second team players are pretty much an abandoned generation. The ones who can get on the first team, like Liu Zhixuan, guys who have already played on the first team, those are the lucky ones. I’m afraid that there are going to be very few players with that kind of luck in the future.”
One step below the senior team, Liaoning’s second team is composed of players born between the years 1991-1994. Backing up their coaches’ frustrations, the players also shared the harsh current reality of being on a team that receives little attention and even less resources.
Speaking privately to a reporters, Liaoning youth players disclosed that they are paid 1,000 renminbi (roughly $150) a month, regardless of performance. A player complained: “Don’t look at all of this name brand stuff we’re wearing, this was all bought for us by our parents. The team only gives us one pair of shoes for the whole year.