Basketball: Max is gone — he’s a pro in China

Max Zhang, one of the most popular Cal players in recent years, will not be back for his junior season.

The tallest player in Cal history at just over 7-feet-2, Zhang has signed with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.

“He signed, he’s done,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said after the team’s open practice Wednesday night. “We were getting unclear messages. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s water under the bridge. This is our team.”

Zhang, who was expected to miss the early season anyway because he is training wth the Chinese national team, averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a year ago. He started five games in 2009-10 and figured to be the Bears’ first big man off the bench this season.

Cal didn’t expect to have Zhang early this season anyway because he is home training with the Chinese national team. He played in the FIBA World Championships and awaits the Asian Games in China next month.

Word is Zhang was being courted by two Chinese teams, and finally signed with Shanghai, NBA star Yao Ming’s old team.

It’s a curious decision by Zhang, whose game remains undeveloped and could have benefited greatly from two more college seasons playing against American competition. He also leaves behind the potential for a Cal degree, which seemed a priority for such a bright young man.

Zhang’s departure means more minutes for someone else, possibly freshman forward Richard Solomon.

“I just see it as a great opportunity. Hopefully I’ll be ready and at  that point where I can play and I can get those minutes that are available,” Solomon said. “I’ve just got to keep working, keep my head up, keep my composure right and just play hard every night.”

Asked how he thinks he’s faring, Solomon said, “It”s been doing pretty good, I’ve been getting every day in practice. The coaches have been working with me on little things. My confidence is getting there.

“You start in a new system and you’re kind of at the bottom. You don’t want to do too much, but you don’t want to do too little. I’m starting to be a little more confident when I get in there.”

Jeff Faraudo

  • tightwad phil

    Whatever. After watching two mediocre seasons (albeit, an interesting novelty act), and then watching what a wuss he was in that brawl with the Brazilian team, I’m not too worried.
    I watched the open team practice today; Harper and MSF looked really solid and confident. If Solomon can grow up and show some more effort on the court (and in the weightroom), and if Bak could figure out which foot is left and which foot is right, we might have a few serviceable inside men! I was impressed with Emerson Murray’s hustle and athletic ability and Crabbe’s smooth shooting. But otherwise, this team is RAW. It’s gonna be a long season, but Go Bears!!

  • rollonubears

    not very honorable.

  • Bears

    Since Max did not stay in touch or be clear with our coach that’s not very honorable. Better off without a guy like that in the long run. He clearly did not want to be here.
    Better to open another spot for another guy.
    Coach will get someone much better than the tall stiff.
    Is our staff looking at a JC guy or a late bloomer for spring signing?
    A lot of faith in Coach Montgomery’s ability to build a great program!

  • Caladan

    Guess Zhang, really wasn’t such a, “bright young man”.

  • covinared

    I wish him well and will miss his rejects.

  • uh oh.

    I simply don’t understand you guys piling on Max in a negative manner.

    Max was a tall skinny teen, who was found by Ben Braun and offered a good scholarship in the US. Wouldn’t you take that?

    Then he came and worked hard and was a good citizen his entire time here. He wasn’t Sven Nader, but who is?

    Then he got a chance to play with his National team. Wouldn’t you, too, take that? Of course you would.

    Then he got a chance to sign a contract. Now, we don’t know SO much information here. Was it his choice? Did he simply want to be back home in China? Was he going to get paid lots of money? Does this give him a better chance of being on the Olympic team? Of being on some other desired path in his future? Unless someone here is inside Max’s head, or adept at analyzing the Chinese basketball market, then I suggest everyone just back off.

    He would have been helpful to the Cal squad this year, anyone with ANY basketball IQ would clearly see. It’s Cal’s loss that he is not coming back.

    Please drop the “not honorable” and “he’s a stiff” commentary. Max will forever remain a bit missed by me for “what could have been”; and enjoyed for the entertainment he provided.

  • uh oh.

    In other words, you discredit yourself when you make assertions that make no sense.