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Watanabe, Creek, Arakji and other Asia Cup stars enjoying a special “summer” vacation
BEIRUT (Lebanon) – Basketball never stops, especially in the summer time. In fact, it’s one of the best times for players to hone their craft in order to become better versions of themselves. Whether it’s working in a gym all by yourself or going up against the best in open runs, it’s never a wrong idea to break some sweat playing basketball.
Here are some FIBA Asia Cup stars who have been showcasing their skills at the NBA Summer League!
Mitch Creek (AUS)
It wouldn’t be quite fair to start this list without anyone else other than Mitch Creek who led the 2017 Asia Cup champions in scoring (14.7 points) while also averaging 5.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest.
Creek also had brief stints with both the Brooklyn Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA last season and it was the Wolves that gave him an opportunity to play on their Summer League team this year. He did tremendously well averaging 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds on 64.1 percent shooting for the Wolves who made it all the way to the title game.
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In the Las Vegas Summer League championship game, Creek scored 13 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 26.5 minutes.
As a physical forward who can do a little bit of everything, 29-year-old Creek could be a big part to Boomers’ Asia Cup teams towards the Asia Cup in 2021.
Yuta Watanabe (JPN)
Watanabe made his Asia Cup debut as a 19-year-old in 2013, though he didn’t play much aside from a 13-point, 4-rebound game against Hong Kong. There’s no doubt that he’s developed to become one of the better forwards in Asia over the years.
After playing in the NBA last season with the Memphis Grizzles, Watanabe was with the team once again in the Summer League. He did a pretty good job as well, logging 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in both the Salt Lake City and Las Vegas Summer League and winning the title in the latter competition.
Champs! サマーリーグ優勝しました！ 応援ありがとうございました！！ pic.twitter.com/vQJBxPiQRu— Yuta Watanabe 渡邊 雄太 (@wacchi1013) July 16, 2019
This should come as no surprise since Watanabe has already shown how good he is right now after averaging 17.5 points in two games against Iran and Kazakhstan at the World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Yudai Baba (JPN)
Another rising prospect from Japan is 24-year-old Yudai Baba, who made his Asia Cup debut in 2017. Similar to Watanabe’s debut, Baba didn’t play heavy minutes aside form an impressive outing against Hong Kong with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.
Baba did well at the Summer League with the Dallas Mavericks. In 4 games, the young Japanese forward averaged 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes of action per contest.
This will surely build up on his confidence and open a world of opportunities for the athletic forward. Baba is solidifying his place as a cornerstone of the Japan national team program and it shouldn’t be long before fans will get to see him at full force in the Asia Cup.
Wael Arakji (LBN)
Lebanon’s star point guard had already established himself among the elites of Asia with his play at the Asia Cup. In his second Asia Cup appearance, Arakji was already leading his team with averages of 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
Now he has a chance to further expand his game, playing for the Mavs alongside Baba. The Lebanese star averaged 4.3 points and 2.0 assists in 13.0 minutes per contest for the Mavericks in the Las Vegas Summer League.
🇱🇧 @FLBB_OFFICIAL's @ArakjiWael on 🇯🇵's @babaseyo 🗣️ “Yudai has been a great teammate on and off the court, We are both enjoying our experience together with @dallasmavs 🏀 ”— 🏀FIBA Asia Cup (@FIBAAsiaCup) July 16, 2019
Read more 👉 https://t.co/c4xqddScjG 👈 pic.twitter.com/qj4RLA5J99
Arakji is going to be the star of Lebanese basketball for years to come and whatever experiences he can get out of this summer will surely benefit the national team program in the long run.
Finn Delany (NZL)
Delany was the second leading scorer (12.7 points per game) and rebounder (7.0 rebounds per game) for New Zealand in their debut run to 4th place at the Asia Cup in 2017. After more strong outings with the Tall Blacks at the World Cup Asian Qualifiers, it’s clear that Delany should be a big part of the national team program going forward, especially at the Asia Cup.
The 23-year-old was also a part of the Dallas Maverick’s Summer League squad and averaged a solid 6.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
New Zealand has got some interesting pieces to build around leading up to Asia Cup Qualifiers play and the Asia Cup itself should they qualify and Delany is one of them.
Makoto Hiejima (JPN)
Hiejima is easily the most experienced Asia Cup player on this list, already with 3 appearances so far. As one of Japan’s top scorers, the 28-year-old has averaged double-digits in scoring twice in his Asia Cup career including in 2017 when he put up 10.8 point, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game.
His journey has led him to play with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Summer League where he played in 2 games for an average of 5.2 minutes.
Hiejima will be well seasoned for future Asia Cup tournaments and should be a crucial piece for Japan as they continue to rise back up to the top of Asia.
Chinese National Team
China are the most successful nations at the Asia Cup with 16 titles in total. Their latest Asia Cup win was in 2015 over the Philippines, but finished at 5th in 2017. Several noteworthy talents have represented China at the Asia Cup and the list will surely add on and on.
At this year’s NBA Summer League, the Chinese national team are appearing as a guest team featuring some of the best to play at the Asia Cup. This team features 2015 Asia Cup champions Zhao Jiwei, Ding Yanyuhang, Zhai Xiaochuan, Zhou Peng, and Wang Zhelin, as well as the trio of 2015 All-Star 5 Guo Ailun, Zhou Qi, and Yi Jianlian who also won MVP that year. Some newer generation players from the 2017 Asia Cup includes Hu Jinqiu and Wu Qian.
China will be getting plenty of experience which will strengthen them as they aim to run it back on their way to claim a 17th Asia Cup title.
Rui Hachimura (JPN)
Hachimura has yet to make an appearance at the Asia Cup with his meteoric rise shooting straight from the U19 World Cup in 2017 to a handful of games at the World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Nonetheless, the Japan national team program and their fans will want to see Hachimura, who is arguably their best player, suit up for the team some time in the near future. In 2021, it will be 50 years since Japan won their last Asia Cup and what a better time would it be to get Hachimura to help out for that cause.
The 21-year-old native of Toyama recently made history and became the first Japanese-born player selected in the first round of the NBA draft, going to the Washington Wizards with the 9th pick. He played for the Wizards in the Summer League and posted19.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on his way to an All-Summer League Second Team nod.
Jimmy Alapag (PHI)
Filipino Asia Cup legend Jimmy Alapag also made an appearance at this year’s Summer League, only not as a player but as a part of the coaching staff for the Sacramento Kings.
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Had the opportunity to work with Kings legend and 12 year NBA vet @thebobbyjackson73 over the past few weeks. Nothing like being in an environment surrounded by great people. Appreciate all the insight and advice Coach. I'll be working on my🏌🏽♂️game lol #Kings #NBA #SummerLeague #Coach #LasVegas #WaldorfAstoria #Basketball @sacramentokings
The sharpshooting 1.76M (5’9”) guard is currently retired, but when he was playing, he was one of the best shooters in Asia. Alapag had many memorable moments over his career, but none other than his 2013 Asia Cup run. There he averaged 6.4 points and 2.1 assists per game as well as knocked down what might have been the biggest shot ever in Philippines basketball history.