Fresh from going up against her compatriot Han Xu in the WNBA, Li Yueru feels that Chinese women”s basketball has earned recognition from the world’s elite league in recent years.
Li, drafted in the third round (35th overall) of the 2019 WNBA Draft, joined the defending champion Chicago Sky this season, arriving in the United States in late May. With Han already playing at the New York Liberty, Li’s arrival set up a highly anticipated duel between China’s top centers.
Han finished with 10 points, two rebounds, one steal and one block in their first matchup this season on Sunday; Li scored two points from the free-throw line, and had three rebounds and one assist in an 88-86 victory for the Sky.
“This is our first duel this season. I know that Chinese media, our teammates and friends had been looking forward to this game. I was also looking forward to it. I felt quite happy after the game, considering there are two Chinese players in the WNBA, which is reason to celebrate in itself,” Li told Xinhua.
“The presence of more Chinese players in the WNBA showcases this world-class league’s recognition of the development of Chinese women’s basketball in recent years, and this is the most important thing,” she added.
“For us, it’s good to compete and live with these top-caliber players, as it can motivate us to improve and play at a higher level with our national team.”
Li admitted that it took her some time to adapt to life in the US, but she is now gradually settling into her new surrounds.
“It felt like a mess for me. I was not used to it, as everything had to start from scratch, and I needed some time to get used to it. But from this week I started to feel that my life here was on the right track,” she said.
“I’m becoming more familiar with people, and learning more about the team’s tactical system. I’m sure things will get better.”
Before leaving for the US, Li wrote on social media that it was her “dream to play in the WNBA.Through twists and turns, I’m on this flight to pursue my dream.”
Now she is relishing the challenges and steep learning curve ahead of her.
“I have had different goals in recent years and they have driven me forward. Because of these targets, I’m in the WNBA today. With these goals in my mind, I’m standing on the stage of my dreams,” Li said.
“I’m currently not getting much playing time, so my primary goal is to play as well as possible in the limited opportunities I have on court. Then I hope to do as well as I can to fit the team’s tactical system.”