Towering import Zhou Qi has informed South East Melbourne Phoenix he is heading home to China for "family reasons" in a blow to the team's NBL title chances.
The Phoenix are supportive of the move and have left the door open for Zhou to return.
But there is no certainty over the 26-year-old centre's immediate playing future.
"Zhou is needed at home at this time," Phoenix chief executive Tommy Greer said in a statement.
"We fully support his decision and remain hopeful he will return and finish the season with the Phoenix.
"We send our best wishes to Zhou's family."
Zhou, who troubles opponents with his 216cm frame, has averaged 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds across nine games this season.
South East Melbourne (11-7) sit fourth on the ladder ahead of Wednesday night's rescheduled road game against the Brisbane Bullets (4-11).