Yao Ming returned to Toyota Center for the first time this season, finding things had not changed nearly as much as the roster since he left.

Only one former teammate, Patrick Patterson, remains from the 2010-11 season when Yao played five games before suffering the injury that ended his career. But he still felt at home amid the familiar faces outside the locker room.

There is, however, another change he had heard could be in the works.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in November that he expected to retire Yao’s No. 11, an honor Yao said he did not expect on all those nights he looked at the Toyota Center rafters.

“I heard a little bit, but I haven’t thought about that yet,” Yao said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been in this building. Every time I look up to those jerseys up in the sky, Rudy (Tomjanovich), Calvin Murphy, Hakeem (Olajuwon) and Moses (Malone.) Those names right there are like a mark for those young athletes to go after them. It should be a great honor for those players to leave their jerseys up there. I cannot think about if I can. I’m way behind them.”

Yao is in his second full season of retirement, studying economics at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University.

“I’m a rookie again from school,” Yao said. “It’s interesting. It’s very interesting. I know a lot of players here finish school first and then come to play professionally. I reversed it. I go back to school after playing career. That’s a way to keep me busy and keep me running. I love school. I love my classmates. And I really appreciate my professors giving me a very patient teaching there.”

He has been extremely active as a spokesman for conversation causes, especially to fight elephant and rhinoceros poaching and works with NBA China and as an owner of the Shanghai Sharks. Though he has remained in the game and will play a still-unspecified role at the All-Star weekend in Houston, Yao said he misses playing though he never seemed to fit well at the All-Star games and not just with his pregame dance moves in 2006.