BEIJING, Sept. 13 : Newcomers like Guo Zixuan are embracing greater opportunities to shine at the upcoming FIBA Women's Asian Cup, as the Chinese women's national team heads to Australia for its final warm-up phase.
Guo is one of several rookies selected by head coach Xu Limin after a number of established players withdrew from the squad in order to prepare for the Military World Games in Wuhan in October. "I didn't adjust very well to the team's system at the start, but everybody encouraged me and offered me guidance. Coach Xu always told me to improve from a technical aspect," said Guo, who is joining up with the national side for the first time in her career.
"Hopefully I will not make too many mistakes on the court. Building on that, I will give everything to the team," she added. "Coaches hope to give more chances to young players on the basis of decent results, but it's always difficult to strike a balance between these two things," admitted Xu, who also called on Zhang Ru, Xiao Tong and Shi Xiaoye during the preparation phase.
Under the new competition system introduced by FIBA last year, the Asian Cup serves as the first stage competition for Olympic qualification, with the tournament's eight best teams offered the chance to compete in November's Olympic qualifiers.
China is placed in Group B with Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, with the tournament in India taking place between September 24 and 29.
"We should take a positive approach to test more newcomers at the Asian Cup, as making it into the top eight should not be difficult for us. More importantly, we need to prepare for the second and third stage of the Olympic qualifiers," Xu told Xinhua.
China will play three warm-up matches against third-ranked Australia before heading to the Asian Cup. "These three matches can be beneficial to the team's development, as we iron out problems and improve our toughness," Xu pointed out.
A total of 14 players, including center Han Xu, who has just returned from WNBA duty, will travel to Australia, before Xu names the final 12-woman list for the Asian Cup.
China wasted a nine-point lead in the final quarter before losing to arch-rivals Japan in the 2017 Asian Cup semifinals.
"We can feel the team's improvement from our performance in last year's Asian Games and World Cup, but we don't have the ability to pace the game. For us, the most important thing to play our best," Xu noted.
"We are a young team, and we are participating in the Asian Cup under the current system for the first time. Everything is possible," he added.
Captain Shao Ting wants to transfer her experience in international tournaments to those newcomers.
"Everyone wants to give her best. Hopefully I can help the team secure good results with my experience this time," she pointed out.
Li Yueru, who played her first major tournament for the senior side at the 2017 Asian Cup, expressed a similar mindset.
"As a newcomer then, I received much help from teammates and coaches. It's now my third year in the team. I want to help younger teammates with my experience and maturity, and try my best to contribute something to the team," she said. (UNI-XINHUA)