Yao Ming still ambassador: Nels Hawkinson

Updated: 2011-08-09 14:10


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SHENZHEN -- Nels Hawkinson, a former basketball player and an official of the US Universiade delegation, gave high valuation of China' s retired basketball center Yao Ming during his fourth visit to China in Shenzhen city on Tuesday.

"Yao Ming was and still is a great Chinese Ambassador to people from all over the world," said Hawkinson.

"People in the US enjoyed watching him play. I never heard one bad thing ever spoken or written about him. That is a great thing to say about anyone."

The former basketball player made his first trip to China in 1979, when he was nineteen years old. During that trip he met Mu Tiezhu, another great center in China' s basketball history. He was impressed by the  "Chinese height"  for the first time.

"I'd never seen such a big guy before. I was turning around, trying to face the basket, only to see his chest right in front of my eyes. That' s incredible."

Mu passed away in 2008 because of a heart attack.  "That has made me terribly sad to hear of his passing,"  said the 51-year-old.  "Even though each of us could not communicate, we knew each other were a very nice person."

"Playing against him and the China Team was truly one of the highlights of my athletic life."

The US has sent a largest-ever squad to Shenzhen Universiade, including sports stars on track and field and swimming, as well as NCAA first division elites. However, Hawkinson doesn' t expect the first place for the team in the Universiade.

"China will be the first, and we have to find a good place after China. That' s what we are trying to do."

As to the NCAA stars, Hawkinson was reluctant to predict their expected crown on the basketball event.

"The rules in NCAA are quite different from the rules in the Universiade,"  said Hawkinson.  "and our guys has only gathered for two weeks, so we have to adjust to the rules as quickly as possible."

"Some top players didn' t come with us because of the schedule of their collages."

Shenzhen Universiade is to open on August 12.