Wang achieves dream of playing pro ball in China

James Wang ’12 is the fourth all-time leading scorer at Williams with 1576 points over his four year career as an Eph. - Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
James Wang ’12 is the fourth all-time leading scorer at Williams with 1576 points over his four year career as an Eph. – Photo Courtesy of Sports Information

After graduation, James Wang ’12 traveled to Los Angeles, Calif., to showcase his talents in front of foreign scouts in the hopes of getting a contract. A little more than 18 months later, he has done just that. Wang signed a two-year contract to play in the Chinese National Basketball League (CNBL) with Guangxi Weizhuang. Guangxi Weizhuang is based in the city of Nanning, which is in the southeastern part of China, just under 100 miles from the Vietnam border.

At Williams, Wang had a stellar career. He was an All-American and stands at fourth on the program’s all-time leading scorers list with 1576 points. Overcoming a back injury in the preseason of his senior year and an appendectomy during the same season, Wang did not miss a single game his entire career.

Now, he looks to take that toughness and grit to China and the 10-team CNBL. After a few seasons in the second-tier of Chinese basketball, Guangxi Weizhuang only recently qualified for acceptance into the CNBL for the 2014 season, winning two tournaments to prove that the team was ready to compete. Wang played a big role, averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists over the six games.

Last season, Wang was barred from playing the CNBL due to his Taiwanese heritage. He was forced to play in the Taiwan Super Basketball League and helped his club, the Pu Yuan Construction team, win the league and the national title.

Even before he got to Williams, Wang knew he wanted to play professional basketball. He had considered playing in Taiwan, as most leagues around the world put a cap on the number of foreign players allowed on any one team. However, once he discovered that in China, players with Taiwanese passports count as locals, he knew where he wanted to end up.

“I heard from some other Taiwanese players that the Chinese leagues pay much better than the Taiwanese ones,” Wang said. “The goal was always that if I was going to play professionally, it would be in China.”

Wang faces some tough challenges as a player in China. He is Taiwanese by heritage and was raised in Australia before coming to the U.S. for prep school and college. Although technically he is counted as a local player, Taiwanese players are viewed as outsiders in China.

“The toughest challenge has been being a foreigner in a developing country,” Wang said. “Not only do I have to deal with being a Westerner, I also have to deal with being Taiwanese.”

After having an incredible career in the Purple Valley, Wang says his collegiate career most likely helped his professional development. “When I was at Williams, [Head Coach of Men’s Basketball Mike] Maker did everything the right way,” said Wang. “From his concepts, his practices, his communication skills and the way he treats his players, it was all catered to the players. In China, their approach to the game is way behind. Not only conceptually, but their approach to training is also way behind.”

Practices in China are often twice a day, six days per week. Although the season is only 18 games in three months, players do not train any differently out of season versus in season. Thus, players often get burnt out, run down and injured very quickly because of the rigorous practices.

“After playing at Williams, moving to an environment that is way behind can get frustrating because I’ve already experienced the right way of doing things,” Wang said.

His short-term goals are to perform to the best of his abilities and to get in shape for next season. Wang also hopes to become one of the standout players for Guangxi Weizhuang. However, he has not lost his desire to win and has his eyes on helping his club qualify for the playoffs and eventually bring home the championship trophy.