MANILA, Philippines ( Associated Press) — Liu Chuanxing signed with the Bay Area Dragons as a regular in the East Asian Super League after making his mark in Australia where he was known as Big Liu.
At 2.25m (7’5″), 22-year-old Chinese national team center Liu was one of the first 10 players to sign with the new Dragons franchise, which will represent Greater China in the EASL but will be based in Manila. in season 1 and also compete in the Philippines league.
“We’re building this team to be competitive from the start,” Dragons head coach Brian Gurjian said Wednesday. “Ultimately our goal is to win games and build a strong culture that allows players to excel and hone their skills against the best competition the region has to offer.”
The eight-team EASL pan-regional tournament kicks off in October and will feature the winners and runners-up of the Japanese, South Korean and Philippine leagues, as well as the champions of Taiwan and the Bay Area Dragons.
Gurdjian is a six-time Australian NBL champion and the coach who led the Boomers national team to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, a first for a men’s basketball team from the Asia-Pacific region.
He has coached in China, Japan and Australia and is now working with the likes of former NBA chief executive Brian Colangelo to put together a roster that will include top free agents from China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as one Asian and two foreign importers.
Liu was a developmental player for the Brisbane Bullets last season in the NBL, where he set the record as the tallest player in league history, averaging 2.91 points and 1.74 rebounds in 23 games.
Joining him in the Dragons will be high-profile recruits from China, including Song Jianhua and Zheng Qilong, as well as five-time Hong Kong League champion Duncan Reed of the South China club and Koby Lam of the University of Charleston.
“The addition of coach Gurjian was the first step in building a team that competes with the best,” said Bay Area Dragons general manager Liu Quansheng. “Now we are working … to create a product that Chinese fans around the world can be proud of, and continue to raise the level of Chinese basketball.”