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"To qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 is everything for us," says Indonesia's Grahita

NONTHABURI (FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Eastern Region Pre-Qualifiers) — A trip to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 would be huge deal for any of the seven participating nations at the Eastern Region Pre-Qualifiers. Getting a shot at proving yourself among Asia’s elite is something that every team desires down the road. For Indonesia however, there just might be a little more at stake during this Thailand Tourney.

“Indonesia will be the host of the 2023 FIBA World Cup along with Japan and the Philippines, but we don’t get the slot to play there automatically yet,” Indonesia shooting guard, Abraham Damar Grahita explains. “We [should qualify] to the the [Quarterfinals] of FIBA Asia cup 2021 to qualify for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. So to qualify [for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021] is everything for us.”

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That might seem like a tall task – Indonesia’s last time finishing at at least 8th place in the FIBA Asia Cup was way back in 1973 – but it’s still a long way down the road. Right now, Grahita and Indonesia need to focus on advancing to the next round first by placing in the Top 4 of the Eastern Region Pre-Qualifers coming up.

This is the first time teams will be playing in the new qualification system heading towards the FIBA Asia Cup, with Pre-Qualifying rounds both sub-regional (such as the SEABA Pre-Qualifiers earlier in June) and regional (such as the Western Region Pre-Qualifiers this past September).

“I think it’s a good system,” Grahita says. “It gives better chances for countries like Indonesia to play in the FIBA Asia Cup.”

Indonesia are placed in Group A of the Pre-Qualifer tournament along with Malaysia and Macau, and will then be facing the top 3 of the 4 teams in Group B (Thailand, Singapore, Fiji, and Guam). Grahita emphasizes that it won’t be an easy task for Indonesia to advance with the level of competition. The 5’10” guard recalls a close game against Malaysia in the previous round, notes that Singapore are among the favorites, and that it’ll be tough to play against host nation Thailand.

“But I’m still really confident that we will win all the games and make it to the next round with this roster.” Grahita concludes.

The 23-year-old has a good reason to be confident. They swept the competition in the SEABA Pre-Qualifiers, including an impressive win over Thailand aside from the aforementioned close win against Malaysia. Indonesia’s stars Arki Wisnu, Jamarr Johnson, and Andakara Prastawa Dhyaksa are all primed to return to continue their undefeated run along with Grahita.

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It’s an exciting time for Indonesia basketball with the recent success of their national team and the rise of their young stars. There’s still some ground to cover before Indonesia can group themselves among Asia’s top basketball nations, but the progress that has been made is heading towards the right direction.

“It’s really easy to say that basketball in Indonesia is in a growing phase,” says Grahita. “Soccer is still the number one sport in this country, but a lot of people are starting to play basketball and loving it. We have a good student league and I think that is a good start towards making basketball to be at least the number two sport in this country.”

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Already an established player in the rotation despite being one of the younger names, Grahita acknowledges that it is up to him and his generation to push the sport further to inspire the next batch of Indonesian ballers.

“I think we need to work harder to push the level of Indonesian basketball so that we can achieve more in international events,” Grahita expresses. “By achieving that, we can inspire others to play basketball. When the participation level is better, I think that the basketball level will grow by itself.”