China write off worlds chances in Yao's absence

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BEIJING (Reuters) - With Houston Rockets All-Star center Yao Ming recovering from a serious foot injury, China have written off their chances at the world basketball championships.

China face a baptism of fire against Greece Saturday in their opening game in Turkey, with American coach Bob Donewald Jr. insisting his goal was the 2012 London Olympics.

"We don't have Yao. We have many young players in this team. We still need to work and improve," Donewald told the China Daily after naming his 12-man squad.

"The world championship is an important test but I have my eyes on the 2012 London Olympic Games," added Donewald, whose team has suffered six heavy warm-up defeats in the build-up to Turkey.

"The world championship will be a very good experience for these young players."

Chia also face 2007 European champions Russia, hosts Turkey as well as Ivory Coast and Puerto Rico in the group stages.

Donewald, who took charge in April, sprang a surprise by axing power forward Li Xiaoyu and including 17-year-old guard Guo Ailun and 20-year-old Yu Shulong in his squad.

Washington Wizards power forward Yi Jianlian and former NBA players Wang Zhizhi and Sun Yue will be expected to step up on the offensive end of the floor in Yao's absence.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo. Editing by Peter Rutherford)