NANJING, China, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Former NBA star Yao Ming said that the worst time for Chinese basketball has yet to come due to a shortage of talented young coaches in the country.
Yao was one of the first international players to make an impact in the NBA, playing for the Houston Rockets from 2002 to 2011. The 2.26m-tall center retired from basketball in July, 2011, after having represented China at three Olympic Games - Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
However, in the wake of Yao's retirement, the Chinese men's team failed to qualify for the quarterfinal round at the London 2012 Olympics, the first time since Sydney 2000, and they finished a disappointing fifth at the Asian championships in 2013.
"I'm worried about the future of the Chinese team rather than the plight that they are now facing," Yao told Xinhua on Tuesday.
"Although the Chinese team are in a difficult time, Gong Luming is a very good coach and I have confidence that with Gong at the helm, our team will make progress.
"But I am worried that Chinese team may hit a new low after Gong retires, because the younger generation of coaches are less qualified," added the 34-year-old Yao.
Yao, who visited the Youth Olympic Village in Nanjing as an Athlete Role Model, blamed the shortage of young talented coaches on the country's educational system.
"In general, the younger generation of coaches haven't received good education in schools, so they are not able to pass on knowledge and skills to the players in training," he said.
Yao, who has focused much of his efforts on charity and education through sport after his retirement, called for the awareness of the vital role that sport can play in society.
"In China, sport has yet to be fully considered as an integral part of the education system both by schools and by parents," said Yao.
"Sport is a way of character education. I believe that team sports teach the young kids communication, teamwork, respect for the rules, and also how you face frustration from when you lose.
"Only when the society are aware of the vital role that sport can play can China succeed in the 'big ball' events (soccer, basketball, volleyball), which requires a vast pool of talents," he added.