With Fredette in tow, Shanghai Sharks target another playoff

After a credible season last year, the Shanghai Sharks hope to achieve another playoffs performance for the coming 2017-18 season.
Ti Gong

Shanghai Sharks’ newly signed players (from left) Nick Minnerath, Dong Hanlin, Luo Hanchen, Luo Zhi, Yan Peng, Josh Akognon and Meng Lingyuan meet with local media.

The Shanghai Sharks’ goal in the 2017-18 season is to make the Chinese Basketball Association league’s playoffs again, which kick off on October 28, the club said in today’s press conference.

The Sharks finished third in the regular season and fifth in the year-end standing in the 2016-17 season. The team endured a fretful summer break, being forced to look for investors after owner Yao Ming said he would sell the club following his election as the president of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Last season’s French power forward Guerschon Yabusele signed for NBA’s Boston Celtics while national team player Liu Xiaoyu joined the Beijing Ducks.

Despite that, the Sharks remain a challenger for the championship after the team announced a new two-year contract with 28-year-old point guard Jimmer Fredette in July, said to be worth US$1.8 million. He will be partnering Sharks’ newly signed 29-year-old American power forward Nick Minnerath in the new season.

Former Sharks defender Meng Lingyuan has resigned with the club and will be joined by new signings, defenders Luo Hanchen and Luo Zhi and forward Dong Hanlin.

The Sharks’ first match of the new season will be an away game against Guangzhou Long Lions on October 29.

“The goal will be to enter the playoffs,” Sharks head coach Liu Peng said yesterday. “There are quite a few changes in players, who need more running-in. To enrich the foundation of the team is also our target. Last year’s good result doesn’t mean that Sharks have become a first-class team. We still have a long way to go.”

Ti Gong

American point guard Jimmer Fredette (left) and head coach Liu Peng

Fredette arrived in Shanghai in September 2016 and led the team to the playoffs. It was eliminated by the Shenzhen Leopards in the playoff quarterfinals, which was the team’s best season over the past few years.

Fredette, however, will miss the start of the season with a knee injury.

“My knee is getting better, but there is still no timetable for a comeback yet,” the American said yesterday. “I’m excited about the new season. The team has been training hard during the off-season, which will pay off when the season starts.”

Averaging 37.6 points and 8.2 rebounds for each game last season, Fredette, the 2017-18 regular season MVP, is expecting tougher defense from his opponents.

“Surely the opponents won’t take our team as it was before anymore. Despite the injury, I have been watching my new teammates training and playing. They are experienced and will be easy to cooperate with.”

While most of the CBA’s foreign inputs are well-built and athletic, the 1.88-meter Fredette conquered Shanghai and even China’s basketball followers by his scoring ability and was nicknamed “God of Loneliness” — standing alone and unchallenged on the top.

Fredette said he preferred being called “Lonely Master” instead. The American is often seen taking Metro and engaging with the locals.

According to Sharks’ assistant coach Brian Goorjian, being too emotional on the court was one of Chinese players’ weaknesses, and Fredette’s presence made up for it, who easily won the affection of his teammates.

Fredette said in earlier interviews that when Yao Ming introduced him to the Sharks, he wanted Fredette to not only be a good player on the court, but teach his teammates how to be a professional off the court, including marketing themselves.

Though Fredette hopes to return to NBA someday, he said he enjoys his time in Shanghai.

“It’s about having fun, making an impact and winning. That’s what it is about for me,” he said.

Ma Yue / SHINE

Defender Luo Hanchen displays his calligraphy work of the team's name at today’s press conference in Shanghai Yuanshen Stadium.

Special Reports
Top