While U.S. President Donald Trump presses the flesh and feeds the fish in China, there are many other Americans working it in the world’s most populous country.
And some of these guys have a bigger following in China, being that they used to be in the NBA at one time.
Jimmer Fredette, at one time a golden boy in the NCAA, grabbed a headline in the midst of Trump’s visit all the way around the world. He poured in 50 points and one was one assist short of a triple double as his Shanghai Sharks beat the Sichuan Blue Whales 114-105 in Chinese Basketball Association play on Wednesday.
Fredette is but one of many semi-famous (some even very famous) former NBA players still trying to earn a living playing basketball — even if it is all the way around the globe.
We’ve got a whole list of 15 forgotten — or at least ignored — former NBAers still bringing it in the CBA.
15. Eugene “Pooh” Jeter – Tianjin Ronggang
Pooh Jeter has spent so much time outside the U.S. playing basketball that he picked up another passport, courtesy of the government of Ukraine (whose team he helped qualify for the FIBA World Cup in 2013). The L.A. native played NCAA ball at the University of Portland, went undrafted in 2006 and then drifted about in Europe, playing professionally in Ukraine, Spain and Israel until 2010. That’s when he caught a break, signing with Sacramento in the summer of 2010. From there the point guard would see action in 62 games (one start), averaging 4.1 points and 2.6 assists per game while averaging 13.8 minutes of playing time. He wasn’t extended by the Kings in 2011, so returned to Europe, playing all over the place before ending up in China with Tianjin. After five CBA games this season, Jeter is 21st in scoring with 23.6 PPG, along with 6.2 assists.
14. Tyler Hansbrough – Guangzhou Long-Lions
The University of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program has turned out its fair share of studs over the years. Tyler Hansbrough was one of them. He was NCAA player of the year in 2008 and won a championship in 2009. He seemed destined for a long and fulfilling NBA career after being chosen 13th overall by Indiana in 2009. Yet, after seven seasons playing mostly off the bench with the Pacers, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets, he finds himself in China. A veteran of 428 NBA games, the last of them with Charlotte in 2016-17, Hansbrough now mans the power forward position with the Guangzhou Long Lions. In five games with the Long-Lions Hansbrough is 30th in CBA scoring with 21 points per game, along with 9.2 rebounds.
13. Brandon Bass – Liaoning Leopards
It’s quite fitting that “The Animal” now plays for the “Leopards.” Brandon Bass, who spent 12 years in the NBA, most recently with the L.A. Clippers in 2016-17, he signed a one year, $2 million contract with Liaoning to keep his career going. Bass made 283 starts in 758 NBA games, starting with New Orleans, who drafted him 33rd overall in 2005 out of LSU. He enjoyed his best years with the Boston Celtics from 2011-12 to 2014-15, where he started 224 of 304 contests and averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. With the Leopards, Bass sits just ahead of Tyler Hansbrough in scoring with 21.2 points per game and 9.0 rebounds.
12. Terrence Jones – Qingdao Eagles
Just like Tyler Hansbrough at UNC, Terrence Jones was a big man on campus with Kentucky earlier this decade, winning a title in 2012 with the Wildcats and then going 18th overall to Houston in that year’s draft. Once his NBA career with the Rockets got rolling during the 2013-14 campaign, Jones had his best season, scoring 12.1 points and adding 6.9 rebounds per game in 76 games (71 starts). The rest of his too short career was marred by injuries and illnesses. He played with New Orleans and briefly for Milwaukee last year, but after receiving no offers stateside, signed a one-year, $2 million pact with Qingdao. And in his debut for the Eagles, he went on a tear, finishing with 48 points and 20 rebounds. Jones made 18 of 28 shots from the floor, including 4 of 5 three-pointers, to go with four assists and three steals.
11. MarShon Brooks – Jilin Northeast
At one time, former Providence College superstar MarShon Brooks was tabbed as “the next Kobe Bryant.” That kind of pressure, plus all the expectations it carried with it, pretty much ensured that Brooks would have a brief NBA career. He was all Big East as a senior in 2011 with the Friars and set a conference record with 468 total points, breaking a previous mark set by UConn’s Donyell Marshall. Brooks was subsequently drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round, 25th overall, who then swapped him for the 27th pick and a 2014 selection to the New Jersey Nets. Brooks turned in a decent rookie season (12.6 points, 2.3 assists) but he quickly faded from view and was gone from the NBA in 2014. He was a CBA All-Star last season and in four games so far with Jilin, he is averaging a ridiculous 38.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
10. Jonathan Gibson – Qingdao Eagles
Riding shotgun with former NBAer Terrence Jones in Qingdao is Jonathan Gibson, who has had an outstanding international pro career and a cup of coffee in the NBA. Gibson, a point guard, was never drafted after a great collegiate career at New Mexico State (which ended in 2010) and thus took his talents to Europe and the Middle East. He played in Turkey, Iran, Israel, Italy and now China. He had a brief stay with Dallas after setting the summer league on fire in 2016, playing in 17 games last season and finishing with 6.2 points and 1.5 assists. He wasn’t tendered any offers this year and signed for a second time with Qingdao. So far, so good with the Eagles as he sat sixth in scoring as of Friday with 35.5 points and 4.5 assists per game.
9. Brandon Jennings – Shanxi Zhongyu
Of all the players on this list, the NBA career of Brandon “The Pterodactyl” Jennings initially held the most promise. A high school sensation, Jennings was the Naismith Prep Player of the Year in 2008 and instead of going to college, went to Europe to hone his skills (he had to be 19 before being eligible for the NBA). He did well overseas and in 2009 was picked 10th overall by Milwaukee in 2009. He started all 82 games in the 2009-10 season and made the All-NBA Rookie Team after scoring 15.5 points per game, 3.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists. He was a solid starter for six seasons, but skill fade got the better of him starting in 2015 with Detroit and after a so-so 2016-17 season split between the Knicks and Washington, he signed with Shanxi in the off-season. He is eighth in scoring after five games at 31 points and also had 6.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game for Shanxi.
8. J.J. Hickson – Jiangsu Tong Xi
There was a time early in his NBA career that PF J.J. Hickson shared a front court with LeBron James. Hickson was drafted 19th overall in the 2008 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and by his third season, he was a significant contributor. In his best NBA campaign (2010-11), he scored 13.8 points per game for the Cavs, adding 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 80 games (66 starts). He was traded to Sacramento in 2011 and would have two more decent seasons, one with Portland in 2012-13 and the other the next season in Denver. Hickson bounced a round a bit more and by 2016 saw the writing on the wall. He played with Fujian of the CBA last year before signing with Jiangsu this season. As of Friday he was 10th in CBA scoring with 29 PPG, as well as 12.0 rebounds.
7. Dominique Jones – Jiangsu Tong Xi
His teammate at Jiangsu, J.J. Hickson, seemed to have a gilded path to the NBA before he ended up in China. Dominique Jones, though, harbored few illusions of NBA greatness, pretty much from the get-go. A star at the University of South Florida, Jones was taken 25th overall in the 2010 draft by Memphis, who immediately flipped him to Dallas. It was with the Mavs that he found out his skills as a swing man weren’t quite going to cut it in the NBA. He bounced between Dallas and the D-League for three seasons, playing a total of 80 games for the Mavericks. Without a contract in 2013, he went to China and has played for four different teams there, with stints in Puerto Rico and Iran mixed in. Jones is just behind Hickson in CBA league scoring with 29.0 points per game and 8.6 rebounds.
6. Sonny Weems – Zhejiang Chouzhou
In basketball terms former Toronto Raptor and Phoenix Sun’s swing man Clarence “Sonny” Weems has seen and done it all. In addition to his time in Toronto and Arizona, the Arkansas Razorbacks grad also had cups of with Denver and Philadelphia. Internationally, Weems has played in Lithuania, Russia, Israel and now China with Zhejiang. His time with the Raptors marked his best basketball in the NBA, where he played 128 of his 183 NBA games and put up 8.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Zhejiang has been the beneficiary of Weems’ talent so far this season, as he sits ninth on the CBA scoring ledger with 31.0 PPG, as well as 7.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his first six games.
5. Luis Scola – Shanxi Zhongyu
Big Argentine Luis Scola is another of those guys on this list who seemed to have it all early on in his NBA career, only to see that shine dull in short order. Drafted 27th overall by San Antonio in 2002, Scola wouldn’t play in the NBA until 2007 with Houston, who traded for his rights from the Spurs. In short order the Buenos Aires native became a fixture in the Rockets front court, making the All-NBA Rookie team in 2007-08 and recording 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in 386 games with Houston. For the remaining five seasons of his NBA tenure, though, Scola played with five different clubs, the last being the Brooklyn Nets in 2016-17. He joins former NBAer Brandon Jennings at Shanxi and has had a great debut so far, scoring 27.2 points per game and adding 14.0 rebounds through his first five CBA contests.
4. Jared Sullinger – Shenzhen Leopards
Even as a star with Ohio State and later a little bit as a force with the Boston Celtics could Jared Sullinger ever claim to have scored 50 or more points in a game. In one of his first games earlier this CBA season, Sullinger poured in 55 points and added 18 rebounds for a massive double-double in a loss to Xinjiang on Nov. 3. After leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 2012, Sullinger, a sophomore, declared for the draft and was taken 21st overall by the Celtics. Nagging injuries, however, would limit the overall effectiveness he showed at Ohio State and by the end of the 2015-16 season the Celtics cut him loose and he signed with Toronto for one season. He missed the first half of the 2016-17 campaign rehabbing from surgery and after 31 games he was traded to Phoenix, who waived him a day later. He signed with Shenzen in September.
3. Ty Lawson – Shandong Golden Stars
It’s kind of odd that a still effective sixth man like PG Ty Lawson had to go to China to find pro basketball work this summer. Lawson, originally a very effective point guard with Denver for six seasons, had a bounce back year with Sacramento in 2016-17, registering 9.9 points and 4.8 assists in 69 games (24 starts). Originally selected 18th overall by Minnesota in 2009, Lawson averaged 12.7 points and 6.0 assists in 551 total NBA games, but arrests for DUI and subsequent suspensions checkered his career. But, we can’t feel too sorry for the Tar Heels alumnus, as he signed a lucrative one-year, $2.4 million pact with Shandong. Through his first five games in the CBA, Lawson sits 21st in scoring with 24.0 points per game.
2. Jimmer Fredette – Shanghai Dongfeng
It shouldn’t take too long for “Jimmer-Mania” to take hold in China. James Taft “Jimmer” Fredette was a sensation at Brigham Young University, becoming the NCAA Division I scoring leader and Collegiate Player of the Year in 2011. An excellent shooter, Fredette was drafted 10th overall by Milwaukee that same year and flipped right away to Sacramento. Even though his jerseys did outstanding business in Kings’ merchandising outlets, Fredette never caught on there as a full-time player, nor in subsequent stops with Chicago, New Orleans and the New York Knicks. In all, before heading to China, Fredette played in 235 games, starting seven and logging 6.0 points and 1.4 assists. As we detailed in the opening paragraphs, Fredette’s ridiculous scoring in the CBA does have precedent, as he once scored 52 points in a NCAA game (a BYU and MidWest Conference record).
1. Stephon Marbury – Beijing BeiKong
At 40, Marbury is the elder statesman of former NBA players plying their trade in China. Unlike many foreign players, Marbury was a legitimate star in the NBA, making the All-NBA Rookie Team in 1997 and being named two-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA Third Team member. He finished his 846-game NBA tenure with 19.3 points per game average, 7.6 assists and 1.2 steals. Starbury has continued his excellence on the court in China since going over in 2010, winning three CBA championships and being a finals MVP and six-time All-Star. He joined his fourth CBA team the BeiKong (Fly Dragons) earlier this year and has stated that at the end of this campaign, he wants to resume his career in the NBA. Stay tuned.