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This Guy's Taller Than Big Gheorghe!

So I had this e-mail announcing the Maryland Nighthawks' signing of 7-foot-9 Chinese superstar Sun Ming Ming e-mailed to me by literally my entire readership (at least six different people). If you're trying to get sports writers to a press conference, you have to admit that offering a 7-foot-9 basketball player and free Chinese food (at Meiwah, no less) is a pretty solid start. I'll boycott the food, naturally, to remain objective.

The Washington Times has already written of Sun's impending arrival in a Nighthawks jersey, although they called him 7-8. DCist scribe and Local Poll voter Andrew Wiseman did a long (har) item on Sun yesterday, pointing out that he's scheduled to appear in Rush Hour 3 fighting Chris Tucker. The Nighthawks are calling Sun "the tallest player in the history of professional basketball," which is actually the "Why" on the press release. (Full Why: "Towering over his competition at 7'9", Sun Ming Ming joins the Nighthawks as the tallest player in the history of professional basketball."

I figured the topic had pretty much been covered, but then early in the second quarter of last night's Wizards game, Sun appeared, accompanied by new teammate Randy "White Chocolate" Gill. Randy gave me permission to interview Sun, but it was loud and hard to hear. All I learned was that his favorite NBA team is the Spurs, he had never been to a Wizards game before, and he claims to wear a relatively modest Size 20 shoe. Maybe I mis-heard that part.

Randy's been working out with Sun, and he senses promise.

"I see him improving every day," Randy said. "I think he's going to be a very great player."

From left, Randy Gill, Gheorghe Muresan, Will Rankin, Sun Ming Ming. They were all standing on different levels, but trust me, Gheorghe and Sun were the tallest. (By Sports Bog)

Randy's played with a lot of tall people. He's played with Big Gheorghe. He said that, like Gheorghe, Sun has a good feel for the game, decent agility for his height, a nice passing touch; "they have a good skill level for extremely tall fellas," Randy said.

Sun's new coach, Will Rankin, was also there. Will's be on the job for about three days; the Nighthawks just made a midseason coaching switch. Will has been associated with various minor-league teams over the past several years, and he used to be an assistant coach at NOVA's Annandale campus, which probably makes him overqualified for the ABA.

"My job is to bring [Sun] up to speed, to get him ready for the next level," Will said. "He's very agile, he's a quick study. We're in a program to get his motion a little better. A little more optimal performance training, and he'll be ready for the next level."

And, as Randy pointed out, "his height is very good....I think he's going to be a great player in the NBA one day."

At the end of the night, Big Gheorghe appeared. Information Leafblower and I waited around to try to get the perfect photo, but it never happened. Will and Randy and Gheorghe talked for a long while. I asked Big Gheorghe about Sun.

"I tell him maybe I try to train him a little bit," Big Gheorghe said. And he confirmed that Sun was the taller fella.

More from the press conference shortly.

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 31, 2007; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Minor League Basketball  
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Next: Nats Enter Hot Stove League


Who the hell are the Nighthawks?!?!?

Posted by: FS | January 31, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

He's a full Ming taller than Yao!

Posted by: MDT | January 31, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

taller, perhaps, but certainly not gheorghe-ier

Posted by: rob | January 31, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

He's terrible. I saw a discovery health channel program about him a few days ago. He has no endurance and runs out of breath easily. He's very awkward looking on the court. Yao Ming would run circles around this guy.

Posted by: Reston | January 31, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Reston - did you watch the full program? He had some form of gigantism, which, if I recall, they have corrected (surgery on pituitary?). Now that his hormones are under control, he should be able to get into shape.

(not claiming he's the next Ming, just that he's healthier now than when the documentary was filmed).

Posted by: Herdon | January 31, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The Nighthawks are this area's ABA franchise. They play their games at Montgomery College in Rockville.

Posted by: Gary Digital Williams | January 31, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Gheorghe laughs at such a man...

Posted by: GTB | January 31, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I heard on the radio that the Nighthawks were going to pull a publicity stunt in which they start five 7-footers. Can you imagine the other team's reaction if they did?

Posted by: CY | January 31, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I think Sun will turn out to be more of a "novelty" than an athlete. 6 or 7 years ago, someone "discovered" in an island in the Philippines, a 7'3" fisherman. I think he was only 18 or 19 at that time. Had never played basketball in his life. I read that a lot of people took interest in him, training him, even adding him to the training pool of one of the best college basketball programs in the Philippines, and even a champion professional basketball club. 2006 just ended. Where is he? Last I heared, he's doing movies. I see the same thing happening to Sun Ming Ming.

Posted by: Kal El | January 31, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

So my follow up question, what the hell's the ABA?

Posted by: FS | February 1, 2007 1:01 AM | Report abuse

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