Preparations for the FIBA Asia 2015 in Changsha, China, are in full swing and most teams are gearing up and aiming high to win this year’s lone berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Like previous editions, it promises fireworks and it has several interesting back stories, like:
• The last hurrah of Iran’s Golden Generation.
• The Chinese seeking to reclaim their lost glory.
• The Philippines looking to finally win it all.
• It being the last edition of the FIBA Asia tournament.
Before the battles start, let’s take a quick look at the best players each team has on their roster:
Iran – Hamed Haddadi
This former Memphis Grizzly and Phoenix Sun is arguably the poster boy of Iranian basketball, having won the continental gold medal in 2007, 2009, and 2013 while winning the MVP tournament honors in each. It’s interesting to see if Haddadi will once again dominate the frontlines, considering that other teams are will be parading promising big men.
Notable mentions: Oshin Sahakian, Mehdi Kamrani, Nikkah Bahrami
Japan – Yuta Tabuse
This 5’9 diminutive point guard is one of Japan’s best players in recent history. Though he’s had a less-than-stellar campaign overseas and given up national team stints to play in the NBA, he’ll be alternating with team captain Takumi Ishizaki. Though he’s not spring chicken at 34, it’s interesting to see if he can lead the Hayabusa into their first medal since 1997 and barge into the Olympics since 1976.
Notable mentions: Takumi Ishizaki, Joji Takeuchi, Keijuro Matsui
Malaysia – Ivan Yeo
Though Malaysia will end up being decimated by its group mates, the South East Asians will look to put up a solid performance behind youngster Ivan Yeo. The 22-year old managed to impress in the SEA Games and SEABA, putting up 12.5 points per game and a whopping 14.8 rebounds. However, Yeo might find it had to replicate his stellar performance against the bigwigs of Asia.
Notable mentions: Tian Yuan Kuek, Sing Tee Ng
India – Amjyot Singh
Since India’s lone NBA player Satnam Singh Bhamara’s participation in Changsha isn’t assured, Amjyot Singh’s in our spotlight. Relatively young at 24 years old, this lanky 6’8 power forward is arguably one of the best Indian players in recent memory. Together with Amrit Pal Singh, they make a deadly combination in the front court.
Notable Mentions: Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Joginder Singh, Amrit Pal Singh
Philippines – Andray Blatche
Definitely the biggest name in the tournament, the naturalized former Brooklyn Net is expected to dominate the tournament at put up large numbers for the undermanned Philippine side. Averaging 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Blatche is definitely poised to exceed those numbers in the Changsha joust.
Notable Mentions: Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo
Palestine – Saki Sakakini
The Palestinians are practically neophytes in the continental scene, but judging from their performance in the West Asian Basketball Championships, other teams should be wary of the upset ax. Superstar and recent Jiangsu Tongxi-signee Saki Sakakini will lead the Middle Eastern team hoping to turn heads and take a spot in the quarterfinals. He managed to put up an average of 24 points and 13.3 rebounds in the 2014 Asian Games.
Notable Mentions: Omar Krayem, Jamal Abu Shamala
Hong Kong – Duncan Reid
Duncan Reid turned a lot of heads in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, putting up stellar performances against the Philippines and Bahrain. He averaged 12 points and eight rebounds in the 2014 Asian Games, and will look to man the city-state’s overmatched front court.
Notable Mentions: Li Yiting, Lung Tak Tsoi, Chun Wai Wong
Kuwait – Ahmad Albaloushi
Back in the Asian scene since missing out on the last two tournaments, the Kuwaitis are parading a young lineup led by prolific point guard Ahmad Albaloushi. The steady-handed point guard averaged 14 points in the Asian games, and it’s interesting to see how he’ll fare against Omar Krayem of Palestine and Asia’s best point guard, Jayson Castro.
Notable Mentions: Hussein Alkhabbaz, Mohammad Abdulaziz
Be sure to stand by for part two, which will be published next week!