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China Coach Slams Basketball Star over NBA Draft
    2007-06-19 07:00:22     AFP

China's national team coach Jonas Kazlauskas has sharply criticised star guard Sun Yue, seen here in 2006, for missing preparations for the Beijing Olympics while trying out for NBA teams. [Photo: AFP/File/Yoshikazu Tsuno]

BEIJING (AFP) - China's national team coach Jonas Kazlauskas has sharply criticised star guard Sun Yue for missing preparations for the Beijing Olympics while trying out for NBA teams, state press said Monday.

Sun, a 2.06-metre (six-foot-eight-inch) point guard with the Beijing Aoshen club, impressed NBA scouts during a pre-draft training camp in Orlando in late May and is hoping to be picked in the NBA's annual draft on June 28.

But Kazlauskas, China's Lithuanian coach, doesn't think the 21-year-old is ready for prime time in the world's top league and wants him back with the national team, state press reported.

"If you ask me which skill Sun needs to improve in terms of playing in the NBA, I'd tell you he needs an all-around improvement, because he is not strong enough to join the games there," the China Daily quoted Kazlauskas as saying.

Kazlauskas says that by staying in the United States, the star guard could be jeopardising his place in the national side for the showcase Olympic tournament next year.

His comments created a storm in China, with Sun's team protesting to the China Basketball Association and demanding an apology from the coach.

The team is also threatening to sue the coach for defaming their star player, the report said.

"This is not defamation, this is the reality that Chinese players have to face," Kazlauskas said.

"If you don't want to accept the truth, how can you help the team to prepare for the Beijing Olympics?"

So far the China Basketball Association is standing by Kazlauskas, but also says it supports Sun's effort to join the NBA.

During the past season, Sun helped Aoshen to a third-place finish in the American Basketball Association, where the club plays in Los Angeles.

The guard has worked out with the Sacramento Kings and is currently trying out with the Washington Wizards. NBA draft pundits say he could be a second-round pick in the coming draft.

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