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''Hosting the World Cup is a booster for basketball in every country" - China's Guo Ailun
BEIJING (China) - With the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 just around the corner, China's star point guard Guo Ailun is feeling the rush of excitement.
"I have been thinking about it for many months now, and I had dreams about playing in this competition, being cheered and with plenty of support from our fans," he said.
"Who wouldn't want to play in a FIBA World Cup at home, on your home soil and try to make your fellow compatriots proud? It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we all want to have a great tournament."
"YOU GET INSPIRED; YOU INSPIRE THE YOUTH. THAT'S HOW HOW IT WORKS."
China are poised to have a good chance to do well in their first World Cup since 2010. Team Dragon missed out on the 2014 edition in Spain after failing to make it to the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Asia Cup 2013, but they seem to be in an auspicious spot this year, having been drawn against Venezuela, Poland and Cote d'Ivoire.
Guo himself believes that they have the opportunity of a lifetime, but of course, they'll need to actually show up on the hardwood.
"It's a very good group, and I really like it to be honest," he declared. "We are going to play against teams that play different kinds of basketball, and will need to get adjusted and play hard to win and go to the next round. Venezuela won the FIBA Americas a couple of years ago, Poland have some players that compete in the best leagues in Europe and Cote d'Ivoire are a very solid team. We are going to take it one game at a time, and we have to start the first round the best way."
To maximize their chances of impressing at home in front of their own fans, China have embarked on an intense series of training camps and preparation games, and they certainly hope all of those efforts will pay off in spades at the World Cup.
"Intense preparation is the only way to keep improving and be ready for a great and long competition like the FIBA Basketball World Cup," he explained. "We needed to get adjusted to some things, but I think that we learned and improved a lot in the last couple of weeks. We are ambitious and very motivated to be in the best physical and mental mindset for the start of the competition."
"WHEN I SEE THAT GUYS LIKE GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, PATTY MILLS, MATTHEW DELLEVADOVA ARE GOING TO PLAY IN CHINA FOR THIS TOURNAMENT, THAT IS SO GREAT."
Speaking of mindset, Guo has been known to be one of the most competitive players in China, as proven by his being a multiple-time All-Star in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and his leading the Liaoning Flying Leopards to their first and only CBA title in 2018.
Looking ahead, the 25-year-old guard hopes he will get the chance to play against some of the sport's biggest names as China progress through the tournament.
"I am so looking forward to playing against guys that I have never faced before, and to show what I can do," he said. "When I see that guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova are going to play in China for this tournament, that is so great. I know that I am going to learn and improve a lot facing players from different countries that I don't play against during the season. It's a fantastic opportunity to be able to compete at this level."
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He's also excited for the Chinese basketball fans, who are known to be among the most passionate in the world. Guo knows that the crowds will go wild as they watch their idols compete on the biggest stage of international basketball. He knows that Chinese fans and Chinese basketball in general stand to benefit in a very significant way from hosting the World Cup.
"The fans are going to be able to see the best players and teams in the world, and also to see us play, so that is going to give extra energy to basketball fans and to our kind of basketball, that is for sure," he said.
"You get inspired; you inspire the youth. That is how it works. They see us competing at this level and they realize that they can do so, too, with hard work and passion. Hosting a tournament like the FIBA Basketball World Cup is a booster for basketball in every country, and China's love for this sport is very good. It’s going to keep basketball growing in our country."