Meet the Asia Cup 2022 Teams: Kazakhstan
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Kazakhstan quietly went through their FIBA Asia Cup 2022 Qualifiers campaign, even after putting up solid results. The Steppen Wolves have displayed improvement since then and are now looking like a team to watch out for in Jakarta.
Let’s take a quick moment to meet Kazakhstan in this "Meet the Teams" series!
World Rank according to FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike: 68
According to the Ranking, Kazakhstan are still considered a tier behind the top teams in the region that are scattered around the 20s and 30s. That’s still good enough to be where they are right now at 68 which also cracks into the Top 10 of the teams in the Asia & Oceania region.
More impressively, it is the work over the past 2 years they have done to shoot up the rankings. Kazakhstan were placed 79 in the Ranking that was updated on December 9, 2020. They’ve moved up in each update since, including a 5-spot jump on March 2, 2021, making them one of the highest risers in the World at the time.
Maybe we should just call them the "Steppin' up" Wolves, too.
Asia Cup Debut: 1995
Kazakhstan made their Asia Cup debut in 1995 and nearly stole the show.
Right out of the gates, they took down Iran (who had placed 4th in the previous edition) to force their way to the Second Round of the Group Phase.
In the Second Round, they pulled off another shocker with a 68-67 win over Chinese Taipei, but missed out on making it to the Semi-Finals by being on the short end of a three-way tie.
Kazakhstan ended their first ever Asia Cup ranked 5th among all teams. Not bad.
Asia Cup Appearances (including 2022): 10
This will be the Steppen Wolves' 10th appearance in Asia & Oceania’s premier competition. It will also be their 4th consecutive appearance, tying the second longest streak of appearances in the tournament.
Kazakhstan’s runs in the 2000s were a bit more successful compared to their results in the 2010s, so they’re hoping to bring back their good form to start the 2020s.
Most Recent Appearance: 2017
Asia Cup 2017 was not kind to Kazakhstan. They started their campaign with a matchup against newcomers New Zealand, who torched them 70-49, and eventually went to the Semi-Finals.
They’re second game was then against eventual 3rd-placed team, Korea, who also lit them up 116-55. Their run finally ended with a 96-74 lost to hosts, Lebanon.
Not their best Asia Cup run, but it definitely makes it impressive how they’ve been able to bounce back to where they are right now.
Best Position in Final Standings: 4th place (2007)
After their debut run that saw them finish in 5th place, it took Kazakhstan 12 years to come close to that level of success again.
It was the perfect storm of firepower for Kazakhstan with Anton Ponomarev (17.6 points per game) and Yevgeniy Issakov (15.4 points per game) making their second Asia Cup appearances and Rustam Yargaliev (12.8 points per game) and Mikhail Yevstigneyev (11.1 points per game) making their debuts.
The most impressive result for the Steppen Wolves was their 75-73 win over Korea in the Second Round in which Ponomarev recorded a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Even though Kazakhstan lost to Korea in a 3rd-place game rematch, it certainly ended up being a run to remember.
Notable Player(s): Anton Ponomarev
Ponomarev might be the most recognizable player that the Steppen Wolves have ever fielded in the Asia Cup.
At just 17 years of age in his debut back in 2005, Ponomarev immediately went to work with 22 points in his debut to end up with 16.0 points per game in the tournament. He’s been a consistent threat to put up a double-double since.
With 6 Asia Cups, 43 games, and a lot of points and rebounds to his name in the competition, it might be a while before anyone from Kazakhstan becomes as big of a star as Ponomarev.
How they got here:
The Steppen Wolves qualified as the second ranked team in Group F of the Qualifiers with 4 wins and 2 losses. That sounds less impressive that what actually happened, which was Kazakhstan losing one of those games by only 3 points to Jordan.
Throughout the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Kazakhstan played solid basketball where nearly everyone in the system were able to chip in with their contribution. While Anthony Clemmons stood out with 15.8 points per game on average, a total of twelve players averaged at least 6 points per contest for the Steppen Wolves.
Current Outlook: On Cloud Nine
After their run through the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Kazakhstan have gone on an impressive 4-game stretch in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Aside from back-to-back wins against Syria and a 47-point blowout against Bahrain, the highlight for the Steppen Wolves was a shocking 73-69 win over Iran. Kazakhstan have played well on both ends of the floor, once again with nearly everyone contributing to the team’s success as evident with five players averaging double-digits in scoring.
There’s still another window of World Cup Qualifiers left before the Asia Cup with two home against Iran and Bahrain, which means there’s still more time for Kazakhstan to build up momentum.