Tai­wanese-US player boosts women’s bas­ket­ball team

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Bas­ket­ball has al­ways been one of the most pop­u­lar sports in Tai­wan and one of the few sports on the is­land to have reg­u­lar pro­fes­sional/semi-pro­fes­sional leagues. How­ever, when we talk about bas­ket­ball’s pop­u­lar­ity in the coun­try, we usu­ally are fo­cus­ing only on men’s bas­ket­ball in­stead of women’s.

Tai­wan’s na­tional women’s bas­ket­ball team and women’s bas­ket­ball as a whole have not re­ceive the same level of at­ten­tion as men’s bas­ket­ball for decades de­spite the fact that it has out­per­formed its men’s coun­ter­parts for years.

Tak­ing the 2014 Asian Games as an ex­am­ple, Tai­wan’s women’s bas­ket­ball team, play­ing un­der the name Chi­nese Taipei, nearly grabbed a bronze be­fore it lost to Ja­pan in the semi­fi­nals. The No. 4 fin­ish was a lot bet­ter than the men’s team, which was kicked out of the event early af­ter suf­fer­ing con­sec­u­tive losses to Kaza­khstan and main­land China.

De­spite its global com­pet­i­tive­ness, how­ever, women’s bas­ket­ball in Tai­wan, like many other sports played by fe­male ath­letes, has en­joyed very lit­tle media spotlight.

There is an ex­ist­ing semi-pro­fes­sional Women’s Su­per Bas­ket­ball League (WSBL) that has now ex­isted for nine sea­sons. But with no live broad­casts, the WSBL has drawn very lit­tle at­ten­tion and fan sup­port.

The same goes for the Wil­liam Jones Cup tour­na­ment, an an­nual in­ter­na­tional bas­ket­ball tour­ney that has taken place in Taipei for more than three decades.

Con­trary to the men’s ver­sion, there was lit­tle or no live broad­cast of the women’s games in the an­nual tour­ney held dur­ing the sum­mer for years and there were very few in the crowd to watch the games even though en­try was free.

The lack­lus­ter at­ten­tion af­forded to women’s bas­ket­ball at the Jones Cup, how­ever, changed dra­mat­i­cally this year.

More than 6,000 fans crowded into the Taipei Gym­na­sium for the first two games of Chi­nese Taipei women’s hoop team late last month dur­ing this year’s tour­ney, a record high in nearly a decade.

The sud­den rise in the at­ten­dance rate was largely thanks to the in­fu­sion of new blood into the team. That is the Tai­wanese-Amer­i­can player Joy Burke ( ). Pri­ory to the tour­na­ment, Tai­wan’s Chi­nese Taipei Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (CTBA) an­nounced that Burke would be join­ing the na­tional squad for the Jones Cup and the 2015 FIBA Asia Cham­pi­onship.

The 1.96-me­ter-tall player, born to a Tai­wanese mother and an Amer­i­can fa­ther, has of­fi­cially be­come the tallest player in lo­cal women’s bas­ket­ball history.

The 24-year-old played col­lege bas­ket­ball for the Ari­zona State Sun Devils in the Na­tional Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (NCAA) in the U.S. In the 33 games she played for the Devils dur­ing the 2013-14 sea­son, she av­er­aged 7.3 points on 51.4 shoot­ing, 4.8 re­bounds per game.

Though she is not the first Tai­wanese-Amer­i­can na­tional team player, the cen­ter has be­come an overnight sen­sa­tion in Tai­wan ever since the CTBA’s an­nounce­ment.

Speak­ing flu­ent Man­darin as she grew up in Tai­wan and did not leave the is­land un­til she was 12, the good-look­ing and easy­go­ing Burke has im­me­di­ately be­come a pop­u­lar player among her new team­mates and fans alike.

Her per­for­mance on the court dur­ing the just-con­cluded tour­na­ment also proves that she has the po­ten­tial to take the team to the next level.

Team Tai­wan ul­ti­mately fin­ished in only third place dur­ing the tour­na­ment. How­ever, Burke’s eye-catch­ing per­for­mance has given a new hope to Tai­wan’s women’s bas­ket­ball.

The China Post would like to con­grat­u­late Tai­wan’s bas­ket­ball author­i­ties for find­ing Burke and con­vinc­ing her to join the na­tional team.

We be­lieve that sim­i­lar to the roles played by Quincy Davis, Burke stands out as a player not be­cause of her per­sonal sta­tis­tics and num­bers but her abil­ity to en­cour­age her team­mates to be bet­ter.

As dis­played dur­ing the Jones Cup, she is al­ways will­ing to pass the ball, cheer her team­mates up when the team is trail­ing and do all the dirty work on the court.

It might take some time for her to be fully in­te­grated into the na­tional team’s sys­tem. But when that hap­pens, Burke could be the last piece of a puz­zle that could bring Tai­wan women’s bas­ket­ball to the world stage.

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