From 2002 to 2007, Yi Jianlian was one of the best players in all of China. In that time, he was a four-time CBA All-Star, a three-time CBA Champion and a three-time CBA Finals MVP with the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
It’s not hard to tell why he was instantly labeled “The Next Yao Ming” and went sixth overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. What is difficult to understand, however, is why the Chinese big man failed to construct the NBA career expected of him.
For some reason, Yi thrives in International play but struggled in the NBA.
Jianlian played 66 games as a rookie, starting in 49 for the Milwaukee Bucks. In that time, he posted a solid 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 25.0 minutes. What was discouraging, however, was the fact that Yi posted virtually the same numbers in his second season.
During his third year, as a member of the New Jersey Nets, Jianlian began to break out with averages of 12.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. For some reason, Yi fell apart during the following two seasons and failed to perform at a high level.
A promising career was cut short by an inability to adjust to the NBA’s pace.
After playing just 6.8 minutes per game in 2011-12 with the Dallas Mavericks, many believed Yi’s NBA career to be done. At the 2012 London Olympics, however, Yi sent a message with averages of 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
That includes a 30-point performance against eventual silver medalists Spain.
Since then, Yi has returned to where he started. He’s now playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers for the second tenure of his career. Yi is averaging 25.9 points and 10.2 rebounds as Guongdong has made it to the Finals.
Back to the basics.
The 2004 Kentucky Wildcats draft class featured Rajon Rondo, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Randolph Morris. Rondo, Crawford and Morris were all McDonalds All-Americans and gave the Wildcats the nation’s top recruiting class.
Morris may have been the most intriguing prospect of all.
The 6’11” center was considered to be one of the best big men in the nation. In fact, prior to attending UK, Morris had reason to consider jumping straight to the NBA.
After his freshman season, Morris declared for the 2005 NBA Draft without signing an agent. This proved to be a brilliant business decision, as Randolph went undrafted but became an NBA free agent and eligible college player simultaneously.
Morris ended up spending three full seasons at Kentucky, averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 27.6 minutes as a junior. Mere days after Kentucky was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Morris signed a contract with the New York Knicks.
Randolph would spend two seasons with the Knicks, but saw limited playing time and started just two games. Morris would go on to play for the Atlanta Hawks, but after two seasons of limited opportunities, Morris decided to sign with the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Morris, now teammates with Where Are They Now? alum Stephon Marbury, has experienced a significant amount of success. He helped lead the Ducks to the 2012 CBA championship and was averaging 22.5 points and 9.0 rebounds before the Ducks were eliminated. earlier this month.
That’s all for this week’s edition of Where Are They Now? If there is anyone you want us to find, feel free to hit us on Twitter or head to the comments section!
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