21 - 28
August 2022
35 Karim Rtail (LBN)
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Karim Rtail, Lebanon out for revenge vs Japan in bid to reach first-ever Asian U18 Final

TEHRAN (Iran) - Karim Rtail likes Lebanon's chances of getting back at Japan in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2022 Semi-Finals on Friday.

"I believe we have a huge chance versus Japan in the semis," said the 17-year-old. "If we play together with one heart, we're gonna reach the Finals for sure."

These young Cedars are out to make history by booking their first Asian U18 Final appearance ever, a feat that would put the icing on the cake for what has been a successful summer for the Lebanese basketball program.

It's mission accomplished actually for Rtail and Co., since their entry to the semis have also sent them to next year's FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Hungary. But they're hungry for more, and reaching the finale is the goal now.

"It’s a dream of every player to reach the World Cup, and I’m so honored to be a part of this huge achievement," he said. "It feels great. But we still have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do."

However, standing in their way are the Akatsuki Japan, the very same team that dealt them their only defeat thus far in the tournament.

It was a nightmare of a loss, 84-63. And that result was somehow a microcosm of how the Lebanese have been faring against the Japanese.

Japan could actually be called a tormentor of the Cedars. In the eight instances they've crossed paths in the FIBA youth level prior to this year's Asian U18 cagefest, they came out victorious six times. Yes, six.

History hasn't been that kind to Lebanon, but Rtail and his crew aren't running short of confidence heading into the bout as they aim to write their own story.

Rtail will surely be in the frontline of his side's revenge plan. After all, he's been their top scorer with 20.0 points a game -- also the third-best in the tourney -- on top of his 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 blocks.

"The same way I push the team, they push me to be better. We play as one team and one heart," he offered.

To think that this is his first foray with the national team makes it all the more impressive. For Rtail, he's simply making the most of every second he's representing the country, as it is a realization of a childhood dream.

"It’s a huge honor to play for the national team," said the Hoops Club alumnus, who left for Europe after turning 16 to develop his game that eventually brought him to Montenegro and Italy. "I've always dreamed of it."

Rtail is surely a talent to look out for in the future, one that could, one day, become an integral part of the seniors team. But he isn't looking too far ahead, staying grounded and focused on what's in front of him now.

That's to beat Japan. And go to the Final.

"We’re preparing ourselves physically and mentally for this moment," said the 2.02 M (6'8") forward, "because it’s once in a lifetime."