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Jerry Brewer explains the thinking behind his columns and invites readers to express their views on the sports world.

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January 20, 2008 12:20 AM

More from Tom Newell in China

Posted by Jerry Brewer

To illustrate basketball in China, I caught up with Tom Newell by telephone and offered up this column.

Newell painted a very realistic picture of the Chinese Basketball Association. There's a fascination with China, because of its billion people, the success of Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian and the potential for basketball to grow here. But as Newell pointed out, things will have to improve dramatically before China becomes a worldwide basketball force.

"Here's an example," Newell said. "Players here, their concept of defense is this: When you ask them to close out on a shooter, they run out to the shooter, but when the shooter gives them a head fake, they jump and give up on the play."

More troublesome, Newell said, is how far behind China is on "coaching science," things such as scouting systems and video and diagrams. Most coaches do very little to teach their players by using visual aides.

Newell was putting together a makeshift scouting system. Then he was fired as the head coach before ever coaching a game. A day later, the Jilin Tigers asked him to be an assistant. It was the oddest experience of his basketball career.

"By far," he said. "There's no question about it."

Still, it's been a rewarding experience. The Tigers asked him to return as an assistant next season. Newell has also been approached other CBA teams.

Though the CBA season is over, Newell will remain overseas for a while. He is scheduled to lead a coaches' clinic in Vladivostok, Russia, in early February.

He has kept a detailed blog about his experiences in China. You can find it here.

"The biggest mistake I made is I brought clothes over," Newell said. "I brought 2 1/2 suitcases. An assistant laughed so hard. He said, 'Coach, where's this shirt made? Why would you bring clothes here when you could buy new clothes for a quarter of the price?'

"That's my advice to people who want to visit China: Don't bring any clothes."

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