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Ten breakout players at the FIBA U18 Asia 2018
What makes these breakout players unique is this fact -- the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018 is their first-ever continental level event. They've never played at the continental or world level before, but despite that, they have been able to make a strong mark for their respective teams.
Let's see who they are.
Yeo JunSeok (Korea)
A team like Korea will live and die with their speed and shooting, but they also need a consistently solid inside presence on whom they can anchor everything. Enter JunSeok, who has been a revelation for the Koreans, averaging 16.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. He is certainly not the tallest or most imposing player on the floor at any one time, but he definitely makes an impact with his efficient offense and strong defense.
Rajeev Kumar (India)
India's Rajeev Kumar has been one of the most explosive scorers in the tournament. He dropped 40 on Korea on Day 2 before unloading 32 against Syria on Day 3. He had a slump today in their do-or-die game against New Zealand, shooting just 2-of-12 from the field, but he has cemented his place among the most electrifying U18 scorers in history. I wouldn't be shocked if he makes it to the India senior team soon.
Michael Wang (China)
The man also known as Wang Quanze has lived up to his lofty billing, recording double-double averages while also becoming China's most dominant frontliner. He can pretty much do everything for the Chinese - score, rebound, block shots and even hit three-pointers. China have a gem in their hands here with Wang, who can potentially be among their top choices at power forward for the future.
AJ Edu (Philippines)
Edu is not exactly an unknown quantity, given how he wowed the crowds in last year's 3x3 U18 World Cup, but he has still thoroughly impressed in his first actual marquee international competition for the Philippines. He is among the leaders in both rebounding and shot-blocking so far, underscoring the kind of difference he has made for Batang Gilas. Look out for him as there's a good chance he will be tapped by the senior Gilas Pilipinas squad in the near future.
Guo Haowen (China)
The second Chinese player on this list has made his mark as a relentless offensive weapon who can pretty much score from any spot on the hardwood. The 6ft 7in (2.01m) Guo has been a matchup nightmare for every team China have faced, and his numbers have been impressive - 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals per contest. How's that for all-around excellence?
Ammar Al Ghamian (Syria)
Syria have been sent packing, but Al Ghamian has surely turned a lot of heads in Nonthaburi. The 6ft 8in (2.03m) big man gave his foes a lot to handle around the basket, and he's one prospect who can probably make an impact even at the senior level already. One thing he really needs to work on, however, is his free-throw shooting. In three games, Al Ghamian shot a paltry 6-of-19 from the line, a dismal 31.6% success rate.
Lin Yan Ting (Chinese Taipei)
Much of the attention for Chinese Taipei has been on bigs Jonah Morrison and Ma Chien-Hao, but Lin has played a big role for them, too. Sure, they have just been shown the door by an overachieving Bahrain, but that should not diminish the body of work Lin has put up in this competition. He scored at least 12 points in every game for Chinese Taipei while also doing a swell job in terms of playmaking and defense.
Ameer Kasab (Lebanon)
Kasab has been one of the most recognizable and memorable players in Nonthaburi. That's firstly because of his dreadlocks, but it also has to do with his production. He isn't the most prolific scorer by any measure, but he gets the dirty work done for the U18 Cedars. He has been a bundle of pure activity and energy for Lebanon, and it's not far-fetched to imagine he will be likely taken under the wing of Lebanon's more veteran frontliners like Bassel Bawji or Ali Haidar.
Behshad Arabzadeh (Iran)
Yes, Airhossein Rezaeifar has been Iran's best overall player, but the unheralded Arabzadeh has been a vital cog for their erstwhile success. At 6ft 5in (1.95m), Arabzadeh towers over opposing point guards, but what's amazing is he also doesn't lose out in terms of quickness and playmaking ability. He was solid in Iran's first two wins, but he really shone in their Day 3 triumph over the Japanese. His versatility was on full display with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.
Keli Leaupepe (Australia)
Like Kasab, Leaupepe has been quite noticeable because of his hairstyle, but he's certainly more than his topknot. The 6ft 6in (1.98m) forward has been the epitome of Australia's toughness in this competition. He isn't afraid to mix it up down low against even bigger opponents, and he has shown a really good instinct for the basketball, averaging 8.0 rebounds in just 18.0 minutes per game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Japan in the Quarter-Finals and maybe against the Philippines' twin towers also down the line.
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