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17 February, 2020
23 February, 2021
7 Wael Arakji (LBN)
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Arakji expecting eventful summer to raise his level playing in Asia Cup

BEIRUT (Lebanon) – Lebanon are one team that will be itching to get back on the court as soon as possible for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers early next year. Their star guard, Wael Arakji, just cannot wait to play against the likes of Bahrain, India, and Iraq in Group D.

“It will be a good way to test our new national team especially after the [changes made],” Arakji expressed. “I’m sure we will see some new faces. It wont be easy, but we will go hard to win every game.”

The opponents Lebanon will be facing are some new faces as well, at least for Arakji. Among the three teams, the 24-year-old guard has only faced Iraq once in major FIBA competitions at the WABA Championship 2017. Lebanon won that game with Arakji putting up 15 points.

“I honestly don’t know a lot about the other national teams especially Bahrain and India,” Arakji admits. “But we’ve faced Iraq before and I know for a fact that they are great.”

Arakji and the Lebanese national team will be extremely motivated to get back on the court as soon as possible, after a heartbreaking result at the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Back-to-back close losses in the final window to New Zealand and Korea resulted in Lebanon just missing out on qualifying for the World Cup this year.

Needless to say that it has added fuel to the fiery spirits of the team.

“Of course, our result was upsetting,” said Arakji, who averaged 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game at the World Cup Qualifiers. “It motivated me and everyone else to get better and hopefully we will recover in the future.”

That’s why they’ll be ready when the time comes to make their way through Group D and qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup in 2021.

During the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Lebanon will be able to once again play in front of their passionate fans when they host the other three teams at home. That will bring back some fond memories of the atmosphere at the games, not only at the World Cup Qualifiers, but the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 when Lebanon hosted the event.

“Playing in front of the Lebanese fans was a great thing and it was amazing,” Arakji recalled. The 2017 Asia Cup was Arakji’s second ever appearance at the competition and he didn’t disappoint as one of the best up-and-coming guards in Asia. The 1.93M (6’4”) floor general recorded 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per contest for the host nation.

With his continued rise to stardom in Asia from his play at the Asia Cup, it’s not a surprise that he has drawn attention from all over the world. Arakji has already had experience playing overseas in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) 2 seasons ago and now he’s aiming to go even further.

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Arakji has been spending the summer with the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, soaking in the experience and opportunity to improve as a player. He played in 3 games during the Summer League and played a solid 13.0 minutes per game with 4.2 points and 2.0 assists per game. He also had a chance to team up with another player from Asia with high potential, Yudai Baba of Japan. As if he wasn’t already one of the better guards in Asia already, Arakji believes this summer experience will take him up to another level at the Asia Cup.

“The experience with Dallas has been amazing and its been a dream come true to be honest,” Arakji said. “Its a difference style of game; very fast, tough, and the competition is definitely higher and stronger. I am learning a lot from the coaches here and developing new stuff that will help me in Asia Cup.”

“Yudai has been a great teammate on and off the court,” Arakji added concerning his Asian teammate. “We are both enjoying our experience together with Dallas and honestly, we haven’t mentioned anything concerning facing each other yet.”

They might be great team mates now, but fans probably can’t wait to watch the potential matchup of these two some time down the road. Maybe it’ll be at the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 should both teams qualify and whenever it is, you can be sure that it will be a matchup among the brightest of Asia.