YINCHUAN, China, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- It was freezing, but the playground was in full swing at the Ninth Primary School in Zhongning County of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Students of different grades were busy in their daily basketball training, some of them even had a professional coach from the local basketball association.
And 11-year-old boy He Mingyang was practicing his defensive moves.
As a key player in the school team named "Little Horse", He won a silver medal last year with his buddies in the northwest division of the National Mini Basketball League, and was later invited to the League's commendatory meeting in Beijing, where he met basketball icon Yao Ming.
"I've never imagined I could ever go to Beijing and see Yao Ming because of playing basketball," he said.
And Liu Mingxing, the headmaster of the school, also felt proud of his students.
"As a school team, it is never easy for us to compete against other provincial clubs and even got medals," he said.
With the Chinese Basketball Association sparing no efforts in promoting mini-basketball in the past two years, the primary and middle schools across the country have been attaching increasing importance to cultivate students' interest in the sport.
But for the Zhongning Ninth Primary School, playing basketball has been a long tradition since its founding.
"We have a three-level team system in our school. Besides the school team, we also have teams in each class and each grade, and our Class League has involved more and more students and teachers in the sport," headmaster Liu said, "We believe that participating in sports activities is as important as studying in the classroom."
Among eight teams in Ningxia qualifying for the division in the mini league, seven were from Zhongning and four of them finished as runners-up in different groups.
And Zhongning County also boasted of a basketball team of girls, called "Spark" in Qukou School, in which all of them came from the impoverished mountainous areas in southern Ningxia.
"These students tend to be introverted and are lack of self-confidence, so we hope to help them grow up physically, intellectually and morally through sports," said Liu Mingxi, the headmaster of the school.
And Luo Shangmei was good at layup as a member of the Spark team.
"Girls can also play basketball well," Luo said, "I am glad to receive a professional guidance and compete in the national mini league games."
"My dream is to be a basketball coach in the future," the 12-year-old added.