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Asia's Young Stars on Display at World Cup
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) – The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 has showcased so many elite players from every corner of the globe, and some of the most promising young players have actually come from FIBA Asia.
Here are 11 players under 25 who made an impact for their respective teams and who should figure prominently in future FIBA Asia competitions and perhaps even in the next round of Qualifiers for the next FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2023.
Jock Landale (Australia)
At just 23 years old, Landale looks to have a bright future ahead as a prospective mainstay of the Boomers. The 6ft 11in (2.11m) center who plies his trade for Lithuania's BC Zalgiris Kaunas had a few really solid games at the World Cup, playing major roles as Australia nipped Canada, Lithuania, Dominican Republic and France.
Zhou Qi (China)
The 23-year-old Zhou would probably rather forget most of the World Cup, especially China's losses to Poland and Venezuela, but that doesn't mean that he didn't play well. Yes, he was the stuff of memes after China's group phase losses, but he actually put up decent numbers - 9.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 52.9% from the field.
Behnam Yakhchali (Iran)
The 6ft 3in (1.91m) combo guard exploded for 22 points right in Iran's first game of the World Cup, turning a lot of heads, and though his scoring has been inconsistent, he was still a constant threat for Team Melli. His final averages are 12.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.4 triples per game on 51.2% field goal shooting. Not too shabby.
Rui Hachimura (Japan)
The 21-year-old Hachimura was maybe one of the most high profile under-25 players at the World Cup, mostly owing to his stellar showing with Gonzaga University and his lottery draft status with the Washington Wizards. He ended his campaign with a whimper against Team USA, but he still proved he was worth they hype when he averaged 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal aver Japan's first two games.
Yuta Watanabe (Japan)
Watanabe is expected to make a stronger impact for the Memphis Grizzlies this coming NBA season, and if his World Cup performance is any indication, then the Grizz should feel quite excited. Watanabe's best work was dropping 34 points on Montenegro in Japan's final game, which tied the single-game scoring record in the tournament.
Yudai Baba (Japan)
If you're a Japanese fan, you should feel really happy about the team's potential. I mean, Baba is the third Japanese player on this list, and he was a rock-solid wingman for coach Julio Lamas at the World Cup. The 23-year-old had a final stat-line of 9.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game, serving notice that he will likely be among the elite perimeter players in Asia and maybe in the next cycle of World Cup qualification as well.
Freddy Ibrahim (Jordan)
22-year-old Freddy was an unexpected spark for Jordan at the World Cup. The 6ft 3in (1.90m) guard made the most of his time on the floor and accounted pretty well for himself with 7.2 points, 3.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game while also shooting 42.9% from beyond the arc. He may be the heir apparent to former star floor general Wesam Al-Sous.
Heo Hoon (Korea)
At just 5ft 11in (1.81m), Heo struggled to match up with bigger guards and wingmen in China, but the Busan KT Sonicboom player still had his moments. His best performance? How about unloading 16 points on the back of four three-pointers against Cote d'Ivoire in Korea's final game? Not bad, eh?
Tai Webster (New Zealand)
Webster may have had the best World Cup among all the guys on this list despite the Tall Blacks' falling short of making it to the Second Round. The 24-year-old scored in double-figures for New Zealand in each of their games and was instrumental in wins over Montenegro, Japan and Turkey.
Tohi Smith-Milner (New Zealand)
The 23-year-old big man played spot minutes for the Tall Blacks, but he made the most of his limited time on the floor. He was a major factor in their win over Japan with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks before adding 9 points, 5 boards and 1 rejection in a tight win over Turkey.
Robert Bolick (Philippines)
Much of the Philippines' World Cup journey was strewn with tears and landmines, but one guy who stood out because of his fighting spirit and scoring prowess was Bolick, who was actually playing in his first ever tournament with the national team. It was a pretty decent debut, all things considered, and he should have a major role in the national team's future.
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