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So middle of last year, I posted a video talking about Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, a Japanese college phenom who I believed had the potential to the first legit NBA star out of Japan. I’m proud to say that video has aged quite well since Hachimura has had the breakout junior year I predicted and is now looking like a soon to be a lottery pick in next years draft. If you have your doubts just go back and watch the Zags win over Duke. With the success of that video considered, I wanted to see if I could find more basketball prodigies from Asia specifically, who are simply on another level compared to the players in their own country.
Kevin was Born in Shenyang, China, in an athletic friendly environment. His mother, Wang Fang, earned a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1994 World Championships in Sydney as a member of the Chinese women’s basketball team and coached the national team at the 2008 Olympics. Zhang arrived in the U.S. back in 2013 as a 14-year-old where he was described as “A model for the future of China basketball. Even though he was only a 3-star recruit, Zhang has experience practicing with the Chinese National Team on multiple occasions and as recent as this summer. He’s also had experience at elite high school programs, such as La Lumiere in his first three years, where he played alongside last year lottery pick of Jaren Jackson Jr. In his final season with La Lumiere, Zhang became one of the first Chinese players to win a high-level high school hoops tournament. After a win over Montverde Academy, arguably the best team in the nation who he actually joined for his in his final season. On the year, they went a perfect 35-0 on the season and captured their third straight national championship equivalent. Post his senior year, Zhang earned offers from multiple high major colleges, from notable programmes such as UCLA, DePaul, BYU and Kansas State and others. He was considered the best Chinese prospect in the U.S. who could start a trend for Chinese players to start playing college hoops. With all options considered, Zhang decided to take his talents to Tulane University, and he’s got his freshman year underway in the 2018-19 season. Kevin made a statement on his college debut, scoring 24 points with 4 three-pointers in against a nationally ranked team in Florida State. Through the first 12 games of his career, he is averaging 6 points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes per game, shooting 40% from the field and 35% from the perimeter., He scored in double figures for the second time against Georgia State, scoring 23 points on 9-17 shooting. While the numbers are nothing sensational, they’re impressive for a freshman who’s started just 50% of those guys. Not to mention No other Chinese-born player has seen this kind of success in NCAA Division I basketball before. Zhang had exploded onto the scene with a red-hot start but has gone through a slump of late. Which is common amongst freshman’s, he hasn’t made more than one field goal since December 5th. He claims to be recovering from an elbow injury, which against he decided to play through anyway. As a player, Zhang is a 6’9 hybrid forward, a very well-rounded player who has experience playing at the highest level of high school, college and international basketball. Kevin’s unique skill set of mobility, ball-handling, and scoring will fit into his team’s space and pace style of play. Overall his biggest strengths are his ability to shoot the ball from distance and get his teammates involved with high-level passes. Kevin Zhang isn’t someone that’s gonna be one and done. He’s a multi-year year college project, with a potential to become an NBA player. And obviously will be a lot more than that, to his home country of China. Few players from China have chosen to go through the U.S. basketball system, from high school to college and hopefully the NBA. The only other Asian college star who comes to mind is Jeremy Lin, Whether Zhang ends up making it to the league or not, he’s paving the way for Chinese prospects just like him, and will more than likely go down as the best Chinese basketball player to ever set foot in the NCAA.