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Get pumped for WABA Championship 2017

AMMAN (WABA Championship 2017) - The first significant tournament in Asia this year will commence on Sunday, January 29, pitting the best basketball teams West Asia has to offer. The prize for most of them? Aside from bragging rights, four teams will get tickets to the FIBA Asia Cup 2017, which will be held in Beirut, giving Lebanon an automatic slot.

The West Asia Basketball Association (WABA) 2017 Championship will have six teams playing single round-robin with four teams earning berths to the continental joust. Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, hosts Jordan and defending champions Iran are all competing.

What's quite compelling here is that the playing field is relatively level, especially with Iran's missing behemoth Hamed Haddadi, who is still tied up in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Likewise, Sani Sakakini and Zaid Abbas will not be able to join Palestine and Jordan respectively because of their CBA commitments.

This means teams like Iraq, who will be bannered by naturalized player Kevin Galloway, and Syria, which will be led by returning star Micheal Madanly, may have a shot at clinching FIBA Asia Cup berths.

This is significant, of course, because the FIBA Asia Cup will be taking in a couple of strong teams from the Oceania zone - Australia and New Zealand. Their entry will surely raise the bar in the tournament and force all other teams to step up as well. Playing at the FIBA Asia Cup also boosts any country's chances of making it to Division A of the qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, and that's a big reason why practically all teams are taking these sub-zone tournaments very seriously.

This new competition system also affords all countries the opportunity to host games, and this has particularly made players and fans very excited.

The secretary general of Iraq's basketball federation recently said as much, noting how their players have responded very positively at the prospect of having national team games in front of their home fans.

"Ever since the new competition system was introduced, the players have become more enthusiastic about joining the national team." - Khalid Mejim Abdullah

Additionally, remember that Lebanese living legend Fadi El Khatib is back, too, and that alone has so many Asian basketball fans pumped. That, along with witnessing Iran's new generation, the continued rise of Palestine and Iraq, the comeback of Syria and the resurgence of Jordan make up for a hefty serving of storylines for WABA 2017.

Good luck from #ZBasketballAcademy to our cedars! #lebanon #waba2017

A photo posted by Z Basketball Academy (@zbasketballacademy) on

Therefore, it surely will not be far-fetched to imagine almost every WABA 2017 match going down the wire, given so much talent available and such high stakes.