Professional basketball teams in Hong Kong are courting Prince George brothers Nathan and Jordan Yu.
The Yu boys, local high school stars who went on to distinguished post-secondary careers with the UBC Thunderbirds, have been offered contracts by two teams in Hong Kong Basketball. Nathan, 22, and Jordan, 29, were born in Vancouver and raised in Prince George but have citizenship in Hong Kong, the birthplace of their father, Simon.
For Nathan and Jordan, the opportunity to play pro together -- in the place where their family has its roots -- is the stuff of dreams.
"I'm just so excited to get the chance to play with my brother," said Nathan, who recently finished his fifth and final year with the Thunderbirds and was team captain. "I grew up watching him play and we never thought we'd actually get the chance to play basketball together. We've only played one-on-one in the driveway. For our entire family, this is really special."
Added Jordan: "Honestly, no money in the world is enough to match this opportunity to do this together."
The brothers are scheduled to leave Prince George today, bound for China, where they will pursue a different but related basketball opportunity. More on that later.
Nathan and Jordan said they can't yet reveal which Hong Kong teams are interested in acquiring their services. But, the doors opened to them after six-foot-two Nathan led Team Canada to a second-place finish at the 2011 World Universiade in Shenzhen, China.
In the Aug. 22 championship game -- in front of 20,000 fans and a throng of international scouts -- Canada fell 68-55 to Serbia. But, in that intense spotlight, Nathan played brilliantly. From his spot at point guard, he coordinated the Canadian attack and hit for a team-high 14 points. When the Hong Kong scouts in the crowd found out from Simon that Nathan had citizenship, they started pursuing him immediately.
Naturally, Jordan's name got mentioned to the scouts too. His final season with the T-birds was 2005-06 and he had gone into coaching, first with UBC and then with Capilano University. But, in the back of his mind, Jordan knew Nathan would some day get the chance to play professional basketball so he wanted to make sure he himself was ready for any opportunity that might arise. When Nathan landed a Team Canada job for the World Universiade, Jordan -- a five-foot-eight guard who also ended his UBC career as team captain -- started training relentlessly.
"I was 25, 30 pounds overweight," he said with a chuckle. "I was living the coaching lifestyle, watching video every night, eating pizza, taking no time for myself. Once Nathan made that team, I was like, 'This could possibly happen.'"
In December, the Yu boys were flown to Hong Kong so they could showcase their skills for one of the pro clubs. In scrimmages, they played against each other -- never with each other -- and made positive impressions on the coaches and management. Nathan's trip was cut short because he had to join the T-birds for a tournament in Santa Barbara but Jordan was then taken to Beijing to play in an exhibition game.
"They already knew Nathan was going to get offered a contract and they wanted to see my level of play and see if I was worthy enough," Jordan said. "I had a pretty decent game [in Beijing] and got offered a contract out of it as well.
"It's kind of up to us right now," Jordan added. "[The Hong Kong teams] are waiting to hear what we want to do. Both of them are going after us pretty hard right now."
The Hong Kong league -- for players of Hong Kong descent only -- plays from January to August, so, all things being equal, the Yu brothers won't be on the court until the start of next season.
Nathan and Jordan want to choose wisely because with the proper development and exposure in Hong Kong they could eventually move into the Chinese Basketball Association, or CBA. That league was the training ground for Chinese icon and NBA star Yao Ming and currently features ex-NBA players like Stephon Marbury and Aaron Brooks.
Playing in the CBA is the ultimate goal for the Yu siblings and they do have their Hong Kong citizenship working for them because the league restricts the number of "imports" that can play on each team.
"We would be considered non-imports in two years," Jordan said. "You have to have your Hong Kong citizenship for seven years and we've had it for five and a little right now. We're hoping to use Hong Kong as a stepping stone to get there."
Nathan and Jordan will get the chance to match their talents against CBA players over the next few weeks in China. The boys were selected to a North American pro-am team that will be competing in a pair of tournaments against teams from the CBA and national clubs from Lithuania and Australia.
"If I work hard, the sky's the limit," Nathan said. "I want to try to make the CBA. It's one of the best leagues in the world. It's second to the NBA, in my opinion, so it would be a dream to play there, especially in my dad's home country."