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17 Alexandr Zhigulin (KAZ)
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Alexandr Zhigulin hopes home crowd can boost Kazakhstan to much-needed wins

Astana (KAZAKHSTAN) - Kazakhstan were on the outside looking in for World Cup Qualification before the 5th window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. After a resounding 92-88 upset win over the Philippines in Manila, the Steppen Wolves still have a shot - even as an outside shot- to make their way through to the World Cup if everything falls their way.

At the very least, Kazakhstan needs to do their job of winning both games against visiting teams, Australia and the Philippines, in this final window to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

“We need to show quality basketball and if we can play as a team with a good defense and productive offense then yes, we have the chance to win,” say 24-year-old Alexandr Zhigulin.

The offense and defense was clicking for Kazakhstan and, in particular, Zhigulin during their last game against the Philippines when the 2.02M (6’8”) big man rained in 6 threes for 30 points leading to the win. Any game in Manila is usually rowdy and deafening with the roars of the Filipino supporters, but Zhigulin was able to silence the crowd with his play that led to the win.

“Last game against Philippines was productive, I had the chance to make a lot of open shots mainly because of my teammates,” said Zhigulin. Kazakhstan made 19 assists in that game, well above their average of 16.1 per contest. “I hope the next game will be similar.”


Their first game of the final window on February 21 will be against Australia, who currently sport a 9-1 record in the Asian Qualifiers. They will be led by Mitch Creek who is coming off a stint in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets which will give Zhigulin and company stiff competition. They will follow that up with a rematch against the Philippines on February 24, against a team that has listed a strong line up including Andray Blatche and Jayson Castro.

The two games will be hosted at the Saryarka Velodrome in Astana which has already hosted three of Kazakhstan’s previous home games.

“Teams that are coming to Astana are very tough competitors,” Zhigulin emphasizes. “Of course, we will try to make our fans happy but it will be a tough fight. I will repeat that we need to show quality basketball.”

The Kazakhstan national team enjoyed hosting their recent home game in a 85-70 loss against Japan in Almaty, but will be returning to Astana for the final two games of the qualification window. With so much on the line, the team is expecting on an extra boost of energy from the crowd when the games commence.

“I can tell you that in Astana there won’t be a lot of fans as compared to Almaty, but I think they will show up to support the national team,” Zhigulin says “Of course, we need their support. We hope we will not let down the fans and friends who come to support us.”