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Players to watch at the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on my Mind) - The future of Asian basketball will be on full display starting on Thursday at the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship and therefore below I'll be listing names of players we would all do well to remember.
Since most of the players who will take to the court are going to be quite new, I've focused mainly on those who are sure to stand out - quite literally - because of their size. There are, however, a few guys who, despite not being the tallest, are expected to make a impact for their respective teams.
Let's begin with an obvious powerhouse, the defending champions - China. Coach Wang Jianjun has the biggest squad out there with an average height of 1.97m and have eight guys who stand 2.00m or taller. Wang Rui and Li Xiangbo are both 2.03m, while Zhao Yanman stands 2.05m. The biggest among them all, however, is 2.10m Zhu Rongzhen, who is also the tallest player in the entire competition. He is expected to be next in line to the likes of Wang Zhelin and Zhou Qi, who also dominated youth tournaments in their day. Without a shadow of doubt, the Chinese look to be the team to beat again this year.
As for the team that finished runners-up to China in the 2013 edition, the Philippines, they will definitely face tall odds to repeat as podium finishers. Coach Michael Oliver's wards clearly dominated in their Southeast Asian qualifiers, but they will be missing a few good players this time around, especially a pair of 1.92m guys in RV Berjay and Rhayyan Amsali. Without them, the responsibility of patrolling the middle will fall squarely on the shoulders of 1.93m Will Gozum and 1.82m Jonas Tibayan. Defensive specialist Gian Mamuyac (1.80m) is also one guy on whom to keep tabs, especially with those long limbs. The Philippines' motor will come from guard SJ Belangel (1.77m), who once scored 99 points in a single game back home. That will certainly make him attract a lot of defensive attention.
Japan, who came in third two years ago, will also be a force to reckon with in Jakarta. In 2013, it was Rui Hachimura who spearheaded the Japanese charge to reach the podium, but this time around it's his younger brother, Aren Hachimura (1.91m) who will take over along with team captain Taiga Kagitomi (1.92m).
The other East Asia squads will be just as formidable as Chinese Taipei parades one of the tallest teams in the field. Twin towers Wu Pei-Chia (2.05m) and Jonah Morrison (2.02) were expected to be coach Lin Cheng-Ming’s main weapons, but Morrison’s very recent foot injury has sidelined him for the duration of the meet. Wu, therefore, will have to carry much of the load, though he is expected to be supported by fellow big man Chen Fan Po-Yen (1.95m), the guard duo of Lin Yu-Chun (1.75m) and Chen Yu-Wei (1.83m), and streaky shooter Chen Yu-Jen (1.90m).
Korea, too, are strong, especially with the talent and experience of 1.98m Yang Jae-Min, who is the only player here who also saw action in the previous FIBA Asia Under-16 tournament. That’s right, Yang is so skilled he first donned his country’s colors when he was just 14 years old. Needless to say, he is expected to break out in a big way in Jakarta after averaging just 4 points per game in 2013. Helping him out are 1.99m center Cho Hwi-Woong and speedy guard Lee Jung-Hyun (1.85m).
Lebanon and Iraq are also teams worth mentioning. The Iraqis beat the Lebanese in the 2014 West Asia U15 tournament, and they will remain a strong threat to the favorites here, especially since 2.08m Mohammed Al-Okbi will be around to anchor the slot. Iraq is also notable for having three 14-year old players — Mohammed Abbas, Hasan Al-Fahad, and Mohhamed Hussein — who are definitely being groomed to be future bulwarks of their youth team. Lebanon, meanwhile, will be led by none other than star wingman Karim Zeinoun (1.88m), who just returned from the United States where he is now going to finish his secondary studies, while Joe Ziade (2.01m) looks to be the team’s main man in the middle.
These are some of the names with which to be familiar, but more are bound to catch our attention as the 2015 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship commences.
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