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Potential breakout players of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship - Part 1
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on my Mind) - The biggest continental tournament in this corner of the basketball world, the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, will unfold in about two months. This will determine the Asian team to qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Needless to say, this tournament is going to be big, so I have taken it upon myself to shortlist some of the players to watch out for. In the first of a two-part series, I take a look at some of the in-betweeners, the guys who are not yet too old, but not quite so raw. These are the guys who might inherit the leadership roles and scoring cudgels of their respective teams as early as this year. These aren’t the guys who are up-and-coming, these are the guys who should break out now.
Mohammad Jamshidi (Iran)
The 24-year old Jamshidi, who plays for Petrochimi in the Iranian Superleague, has been trumpeted as the probable heir to iconic wingman Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, and it's with good reason, too. The versatile guard/forward has a varied skill-set, able to drive strong to the hole and also be a threat from the perimeter. He displayed this full array at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 13.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. He shone, in particular, in Iran's knockout round games, dropping 26 points on Jordan, 19 on the Philippines, and 20 big ones in the title game against Chinese Taipei. Jamshidi is projected to mostly play behind Bahrami in the 2015 FIBA Asia tourney, ensuring that there is no drop-off in production when new coach Dirk Bauermann dips into his bench. Despite his role as a reserve, though, Jamshidi shold not be overlooked opposing teams, who now have one more marquee name to worry about when they play against Team Melli.
Ahmad Al-Dwairi (Jordan)
Just how good is this 22-year-old gentle giant who plays for Ittihad Schools in the Jordanian Premier League? Check this - at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, he was Jordan's second-leading scorer behind Rasheim Wright, averaging 12.7 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block per game against some of the best big men in Asia. One of his most notable games was against the Philippines, when he put up a 13-point, 14-rebound double-double opposite one of the most accomplished naturalized players in the history of FIBA Asia, Marcus Douthit. He also impressed against Japan's veteran slotman Kosuke Takeuchi, recording 14 points, 16 boards, and 3 big rejections. Al-Dwairi is certainly one of the cornerstones of the future of Jordanian basketball.
Khalid Suliman Abdi (Qatar)
At 28 years old, Abdi is in the prime of his basketball playing years, and he should be among Qatar's leaders in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. In the 2013 edition in Manila, Abdi played mainly as a reserve, spelling naturalized forward Jarvis Hayes. He averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in that competition. Fast-forward to the 2014 Asia Games and Abdi suddenly took on a bigger role, shooting 60.0 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc en route to recording a team-high 15.0 points per game. The highlight of that campaign for Abdi, who plays for the Al Sadd club in Qatar's Division 1, was scoring 25 points, hauling down 9 rebounds, and netting 4 steals against fellow Gulf nation Kuwait. With Qatar probably sticking with naturalized guard Boney Watson for this year's continental joust, Abdi should retain his spot as the team's #1 wing scorer.
Amjyot Singh (India)
At the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the then 21-year-old Amjyot burst onto the scene as one of India’s most explosive weapons. Here was a kid who had great size at either forward position, had the skills of a wingman and had freakish athleticism. His best game in that tournament was a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double in India's opening win over Bahrain. A year later, at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, Amjyot's game grew even more as he led India in scoring by averaging 14.7 points per game on top of 6.9 rebounds per outing. He followed this up by leading India anew in the Asian Games, dropping 13.6 points, 5.0 boards, and 1.8 blocks per contest. Without a doubt, banning injury, the versatile forward should be among the best all-around players in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Be sure to check out next week's column to find out the four other potential breakout players who will be in action in Changsha, China (23 September-3 October).
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