Interview: Struggling Sichuan aiming for return to glory

Source: Xinhua| 2020-10-16 16:26:33|Editor: huaxia

CHENGDU, China, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Former CBA champions the Sichuan Blue Whales have found a play-off berth far beyond their reach in recent seasons, but the club still harbors the goal of winning the CBA championship.

The 2015-16 CBA champion, who beat Liaoning 4-1 in that year's finals to raise its first-ever CBA trophy in its third season in the league, finished 17th last season, only one place better than the previous season.

"After the championship in 2016 and the 7th-place finish the following season, we had problems in the youth system. We don't have many native Sichuan players who are capable of leading us back to glory," said Sichuan boss Zhou Shiqiang.

Sichuan has finished 19th, 18th and 17th in the past three seasons, and finishing between 8th and 12th is the goal for them in the 2020-21 season, which begins on Saturday.

Four years after they won the title, Zhou says they could have done better.

"We wanted to get into the play-offs again after we won the championship, which no team had ever done after winning the title with three foreign players. We did make the play-offs the following season, but our young players missed out on opportunities to play," Zhou recalled.

Sichuan struggled after its two successful seasons, as veteran players left and young players were not ready to compete against other strong teams like Beijing, Guangdong and Xinjiang.

Zhou started his revamping plan last season, 10 years after he took over the club in 2009, but the future is set to be long and arduous.

"I said we'd win the title in 10 years (in 2013), but we won it within three years. Now I'm not thinking about regaining the title in the next 10 years. I'm thinking of being a perennial play-off team first, and then the top four. The championship will be the consequence," Zhou said.

Sichuan re-signed Iran's veteran center Hamed Haddadi, who led them to the 2016 title, this season.

"We want him to do different things this time with us - not win the title, but to teach the young players," Zhou said.

Off the court, Zhou's company Jinqiang Group invested 150 million yuan (22 million U.S. dollars) to build a brand-new arena in Chengdu, which is set to be the home court of the Blue Whales next season.

Zhou is also planning a much bigger training base in Ya'an, Sichuan province, to act as a training camp for youth teams of all sports in Sichuan.

The way to return to glory is not an easy one, and Zhou knows he should ensure all the fundamentals are done better than ever in order to get ready for another tilt at the title.

"The youth players and the new training base are our future. I want to have a back-court lineup comprised entirely of Sichuan natives. But even we can not fulfil this dream, I will not regret it because I'm building a base for Sichuan basketball. My company earns money from the youth training system and the system will bring up more and more talents to the CBA and the Chinese national team," Zhou said. Enditem