China Ducks

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

Jenneee Moor ... Jenneee Moor ... Jenneee Moor.

Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Linjiang, Dandong, LingBao ... everywhere in China, it seemed, was Moor-town.

"The Chinese just can't pronounce my last name," said Jenny Mowe, the 6-foot-5 post player who has paired a basketball career with a penchant for world travel.

Yet however they said it, they said it a lot.

In any language, it seems, and anywhere, basketball fans gravitate toward Jenny Mowe.

"Maybe it was because I was a foreigner, an American," said Mowe, who turned Eugene into "Mowe-town" as one of the most popular women's basketball players in University of Oregon history, and who is back in Eugene after more than two months playing professionally in China.

"Maybe it was because I was 6-5 and wore size 15 shoes. Maybe it was because I'd smile a lot and they felt they could come up and talk to me."

Never mind that the fans of Chinese women's basketball spoke about as much English as Mowe does Chinese.

Very little, if any.

But as she did at tiny Powers High in southwestern Oregon, for the Ducks in her five-year stay in Eugene, during her injury-filled, two-year tour with the Portland Fire of the Women's National Basketball Association and amid her other overseas stops in Poland and South Korea, Mowe was a fan magnet.

"They come up to me, try to talk to me," Mowe said. ` `Jenneee Moor sooo good,' they would say. I told them I didn't understand but they kept talking, in Chinese, very slowly."

From January through mid-March, Mowe made her second excursion to play basketball in China, the world's most populous nation, a country that includes 100 cities with populations of more than 1 million and has an estimated total citizen count of 1 1/3 billion.

"The streets in almost any city are bulging with people," the 26-year-old Mowe said.

So were the dimly lit, unheated and smoke-filled gymnasiums in which Mowe and her Henan Province team in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association competed.

"The Chinese love basketball, and they love women's basketball," she said. "Tickets for our games are about $80 apiece, and we'd sell out our games every night."

The ticket money, she said, was not the only currency making its way from one pocket to another, either giving Mowe's team - the Elephants - an advantage or disadvantage.

"The refs are paid off," she said. "That makes it really difficult to win on the road. The Chinese refer to them as `The Black Whistle.' '

Not that Mowe was unfamiliar with fouling out, having been disqualified by personals in 12 games while playing for Oregon, but ...

"I knew going into this one game (against Linjiang) that I would foul out (because of the payoffs)," she said. "All there was to do was stay in as long as I could, which was until there was four minutes left."

Henan won anyway.

"But when you know you're not going to foul out, you can smash people," she said.

After the 10-game regular season, shortened by government attempts to control the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Mowe's team had two games in the playoffs before being ousted.

The first University of Oregon player to be drafted into the WNBA (second round to Portland in April 2001), Mowe was in China to play basketball, and get paid for it.

In the women's league, one American is allowed on each team. A player can earn from $11,000 to $16,000 a month. The Chinese players are paid by the Chinese government; the foreign players are paid by team sponsors - in Mowe's case, an apple-vinegar juice company.

Mowe earned her keep, averaging 19 points, 16 rebounds and two blocked shots for Henan, which also included on its roster a 7-footer.

"What I liked most was being able to play 40 minutes a game," she said. …