At Least He Won’t Be Standing Out Too Much

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Max Zhang is ready to conquer Pac-10 basketball with CalCal football is in full swing these days, and I’m happy–these are the best months of college, chilling on Saturdays, an event at hand, and the possibilities of craziness endless. For most people. Who aren’t me.

But let’s move from our dreamy weekends to the interesting realities lying ahead. That’s right, I’ll be talking about college basketball for a brief second, because there just seems to be this unwritten rule that every time a seven foot Chinese star migrates to our team, I just have to blog about it. Consider it morbid curiosity, or if you want a more respective term, subconscious Confucian fusion. But it’s time to meditate.

Xu “Max” Zhang, a 7-3 center from Yantai, China, has signed to play with the California men’s basketball team this season, Golden Bear head coach Ben Braun announced today.

The tallest player in school history and only the fourth seven-footer ever to play at Cal, Zhang only began playing basketball when he was 15, but by the time he graduated from high school in 2006, he was selected to China’s high school all-star team.

“It is very rare to have a skilled student-athlete with Max’s size,” Braun said. “He has improved significantly over the past two years and is still developing physically. Max has the ability to change games and alter opponents’ shots, and he has the potential to score inside and outside. He can run the floor and is an adept shot blocker.”

Zhang first played in the United States when he attended an adidas camp in the summer of 2005. He returned to the U.S. in the fall of 2006 to study at the American English Academy in Monterey Park, Calif. As a member of the California Supreme AAU team, Zhang ranked third in both rebounds (43) and blocks (10) at the 2007 Cactus Classic this past May in Tucson, Ariz. He also played briefly with the LA Impact team over the summer.

Zhang adds to an impressive front line for the Bears that includes returning 6-11 senior center DeVon Hardin, Cal’s fifth all-time leading shot blocker who averaged 10.7 ppg and 8.4 rpg in 11 games last year before being sidelined with a foot injury, and 6-10 forward Ryan Anderson, a Freshman All-American and member of the 2007 Pac-10 All-Freshman squad after contributing 16.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg.

Zhang’s signing also provides insurance, as several Cal post players have incurred significant injuries in recent years, including four different players who had surgery in the last year. In addition to Hardin, they are 7-0 sophomore Jordan Wilkes (knee), 6-10 sophomore Taylor Harrison (knee) and 6-6 junior Theo Robertson (hip). Former big men Leon Powe (knee), Rod Benson (knee) and Sam Rayburn (knee) also missed all or part of seasons since 2004-05.

I have not followed Cal basketball with much compunction, simply because the artist currently known as Ben Braun retains the distinction of injuring all his big men. Hopefully he will take better care of this one, knowing that the wrath of the Red Army could fall on his doorstep. (Not that Berkeley would mind–I fully believe they will be greeted as liberators).

Too Much Max Zhang! [California Golden Blogs]
7-3 Max Zhang Signs with Cal basketball [CSTV]

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