Fanbo Zeng, the former 33rd in the ESPN Class of 2022, told ESPN Wednesday that he has signed with the NBA’s G League Ignite and will announce the 2022 NBA draft.
“This is the best and fastest way to become a professional, and also getting better every day,” Zeng told ESPN. “It was the best decision I could make when I was in China. I’m not saying the NCAA isn’t good – just that my J League is the best approach for me.”
Zeng spent three years playing high school basketball in Oregon and Florida but returned to China at the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, originally committed to Gonzaga due to scholarship offers from Florida State, Florida, Virginia Tech and others before choosing to pursue a professional path. He says he has grown two inches in the past 18 months and is now 6ft 11, while weighing 198 pounds.
Although previously classified as a high school student in the United States, Zeng has already completed his high school graduation courses, agent Jiacheng Roman Liu told ESPN, making him eligible to enter the 2022 draft, which he plans to do.
Zeng arrived at the G League Ignite training facility in Walnut Creek, California, last week and will soon be cleared for live action.
Zeng is one of the most promising prospects out of China at some point, and he’s been receiving a lot of attention for his ability to shoot high and shoot from 3 points. He averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.1 assists per game at Windermere Prep High School outside Orlando, Florida, as a sophomore in 2019-20, shooting 47% from a 3-point range and establishing himself as a Five-star potential recruit.
After arriving in Oregon at the age of 14, Zeng says spending much of his high school career in the United States will help smooth his transition to Ignite.
“It changed everything for me – learning how to play with and against other sports players,” he said. “In high school, I defended everyone: goalkeepers, attackers and even the big guys. I can join any team because I take open shots, find teammates and make good decisions with the ball. Growing by two inches helped me jump higher and improve defense and rebounding.”
A team official told ESPN that NBA scouts will be allowed to assess practices for the G League Ignite starting Thursday. Ignite has four players currently ranked in the ESPN 100: Jaden Hardy (No. 3), Dyson Daniels (No. 15), Michael Foster (No. 31), and MarJon Beauchamp (No. 53). This does not include Zeng, who was not previously considered a candidate to join the category of the upcoming draft.
Ignite also has 17-year-old Scoot Henderson, arguably the best American prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft class, in the fold over the next two years. The team has announced a 25-match schedule that includes exhibition matches against G League teams and participation in the G League Showcase Cup.
Zeng says that G League Ignite was closely followed in China last year even without a homegrown player, a feature that will surely increase the amount of interest the relatively new NBA program is receiving in one of the largest media markets on the planet.
“Everyone in China took notice of Ignite last year,” Zeng said. “They loved it. We were able to watch all the G League matches and replays. Help Ignite Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga become professionals.”
Only Chinese players have been drafted in the past 15 years, and Zhou Zhi was the last player to set foot on the NBA grounds, in 2018. ESPN.
Jonathan Jevoni is an NBA draft expert and founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a proprietary exploratory and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA, and international teams.