By Sportswriter Yao Youming
XI'AN, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- As hosts of the 2021 National Games, team Shaanxi from northwest China feels confident that it can snatch a medal in the basketball tournament given its rapid development in recent years.
Three Shaanxi players: Pei Yue, Cao Yinqi and Song Kexin were promoted into the latest list of the Chinese Women's Basketball team, bringing hope to the team that they can grab a medal in the National Games after many years of absence.
Both the men's and women's basketball teams in Shaanxi were established in 1958. In China's ground-breaking National Games in 1959, the Shaanxi men's team came in 11th place.
The 1980s was "the golden age" for Shaanxi basketball. The Shaanxi men's team snatched fourth place in 1984 national league, and third place in 1986.
Wang Libin, the vice president of Chinese Basketball Association and the president of Shaanxi Basketball Association (SBA), was the flag bearer of China's Olympic team in the Los Angeles Olympic Games opening ceremony in 1984.
But the development of basketball in Shaanxi was hindered in the 1990s when group games were neglected as local sport administrators put much attention on individual events, which were seen as easy ways to secure medals.
In 2016, working with the Shaanxi Xinda Wolves basketball club and Tianze basketball club, the Shaanxi sports bureau rebuilt the men's and women's teams. In the 2017-2018 season, Tianze took part in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association League (WCBA). This is Shaanxi's only professional team that is a side in the Chinese division one league.
Although the Xinda Wolves are not a CBA league side yet, the men's team have earned three National Basketball League (NBL) titles in four years.
"Xinda will also compete in the 14th National Games, and we expect the team to work miracles," Wang told Xinhua.
Under Wang's lead, the SBA tried to find more ways of cooperation with FIBA in 2018. The first edition FIBA World Basketball Summit was held in Xi'an from Oct. 3-4, 2018, with 500 senior officials in world basketball and the other related fields outlining a blueprint for the future development of the sport.
Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, also welcomed 20 men's teams and 20 women's teams from 33 countries and regions at the FIBA 3x3 U-23 World Cup held between October 3-7. The success of the event has earned the city of Xi'an a new title. It was described as "the capital of basketball" by the FIBA official website.
To achieve long-term and stable development in the sport, the SBA also advocates "small basketball," a program proposed by CBA president Yao Ming to develop China's youth basketball for kids between six and twelve. The proposal of lower baskets, smaller balls and smaller courts have been made a reality in every city of the province. According to the SBA, the number of teenage basketball players in the northwestern province increases by 200,000 every year.
Shaanxi received a gold medal in 3x3 basketball in the 2017 Tianjin National Games.
Wang said that if Shaanxi is able to get a medal in the regular basketball event, it will make a big difference.
"I hope the young basketballers of Shaanxi Province will play better and make greater contributions to China's basketball development in the next six decades," Wang said.