Which 21st century youngster is next to make the leap to stardom?
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - FIBA Asia Cup fans were all witness as they watched Lebanon’s Wael Arakji confirm his status as a superstar by winning the TISSOT MVP.
After leading the competition in scoring with 26.0 points per game on an efficient shooting clip of 51.7 percent from the field, 45.8 percent from the three-point line, and 84.4 percent from the three-throw line, it was an award well-deserved.
This was also Arakji’s third Asia Cup, after making his debut in 2015 back when he was just 21 years old. The Lebanon point guard flashed potential and ended up averaging 9.8 points and 3.6 assists per game, the latter of which was ranked in the top 10 among all players.
We’ve seen plenty of youngsters put their talents on display here at Asia Cup 2022 as well! Which of these promising 21st century prospects do you think could make the leap as an Asia Cup MVP contender in the future or maybe even as soon as the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers?
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Australia - Tyrese Proctor
10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds per game on 40.7 percent three-point shooting
We’re not only listing Proctor here because he’s going to be highly touted freshman playing in the NCAA next season for Duke, it’s because the 18-year-old played in the Asia Cup against opponents who were around 5 years older on average and balled out.
Proctor clocked in 21.5 minutes per game in the competition and also iced two clutch free-throws in the Final, too.
Don’t forget about: Australia actually had 5 players who were 22 or younger. While Alex Ducas (21), Wani Swaka Lo Buluk (21), and David Okwera (19) had more limited roles compared to Proctor, Samson Froling (22) shined when he was on the court where he averaged 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game.
Bahrain - Mustafa Husein Ali Rashed
10.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game
Bahrain only got to play three games in this Asia Cup, but at least it was enough to get a glimpse of what young guard Mustafa Rashed was capable of. Hardcore fans will already remember him from the U18 Asian Championship 2018 where he averaged over 20 points per game, which is something that seems possible for him to achieve in the future at the Asia Cup.
Don’t forget: Bahrain were also another team that paraded young talents in their roster with 4 other 4 other players aged 22 or younger. This included Mustafa’s big brother Ali Rashed as well as Nader Naser, Ali Jaber Hasan Jasim Kadhem, and Ahmed Bindayneh.
China - Xu Jie
8.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting, 50 percent three-point shooting, and 100 percent free-throw shooting
China continue to make a transition to push young talents and they brought some of their brightest young guards to showcase in Jakarta. Xu Jie was one that performed well in Jakarta, earning more minutes as the competition progressed while maintaining to be an efficient scorer. The 1.80M (5’11”) guard can shoot the lights out and is getting more and more accustomed to running the point at the senior level.
Don’t forget about: Jiang Weize. China’s other 22 year old guard had himself quite an Asia Cup debut as well, highlighted by a 20-point outing against Bahrain. Both Xu and Jiang were key members of the U18 Asian Championship 2018 squad and should continue to be key members of the senior national team squad in the future, too.
Chinese Taipei - Lin Ting-Chien
17.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 50 percent shooting, 36.8 three-point shooting
Technically, Lin was born in 1999 so he should be on this list… but he was born late in the year and is still 22 by the time this was published, so it would not feel right to leave him out, especially considering how well he played in his first Asia Cup.
Lin scored in double-digits in all of his four games and also was one of the few players that scored at least 30 points in a single game in this Asia Cup. The 1.90M (6’3”) shooting guard had a lot of success playing in Indonesia at the U16 Asian Championship in 2015 and had some success back here in the country at the senior national team level.
India - Pranav Prince
9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game
The team continues to emphasize on the importance of developing their youth players, as evident by their Asia Cup lineup that included a whopping total of eight players aged 22 or younger. One of the more impressive youngsters during this run was Pranav Prince, playing in his Asia Cup debut.
Don’t forget about: The other seven youngsters under 22 were Sahaij Sekhon, Amarendra Nayak, Prashant Singh Rawat, Pratyanshu Tomar, Aryan, Arvind Muthu Krishnan, and Kushal Singh. Keep an eye on 17-year-old Kushal Singh who is expected to also play in the U18 Asian Championship this year… after also playing in the U16 Asian Championship just over a month ago.
Indonesia - Derrick Michael Xzavierro
8.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game
There’s a lot of room for Derrick Michael to improve, but it was very easy to forget that the kid is still only 19 years old. The performance that stood out in particular was in Indonesia’s game against Jordan where he exploded for 17 points in the first half alone to keep the eventual Semi-Finalists on the edge of their seats. The 2.03M (6’8) center ranked in the Top 10 of rebounds among all qualified players at Asia Cup 2022.
Don’t forget about: Agassi Goantara has yet to have that signature breakout performance yet, but he’s flashed some potential as a solid guard prospect down the road for Indonesia. This also applies to Muhamad Arighi who turned 23 earlier this year.
Iran - Matin Aghajanpour
3.5 points in 6.5 minutes per game
For a team that was veteran and star heavy at nearly every position as Iran, just getting 26 minutes of action as 21-year-old Matin Aghajanpour did is a good sign. The 1.98M (6’6”) wing has been a key part of the youth national teams for Iran and should start getting a bigger role for the senior team in the near future.
Japan - Keisei Tominaga
15.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game on 41.3 percent three-point shooting
Tominaga was arguably one of the best youngsters at the Asia Cup and not only because of his outstanding statistical output. Yes, the 1.88M (6’2”) shooting guard averaged many points efficiently, but more than that was his display of leadership for Akatsuki Japan. In particular, when Yuta Watanabe was unable to play due to an injury, Tominaga stepped up and delivered with a 33-point explosion on 12-20 shooting, making it the most scored by a player aged 21 or younger in the 21st century.
Don’t forget about: As fun as it was to watch Tominaga shoot the lights out and score, it was equally as fun to watch 1.72M (5’8”) guard Yuki Kawamura enter the court and make an immediate impact. The 21-year-old (and U18 Asian Championship 2018 teammate with Tominaga) was a menace on defense and pushed the tempo for Japan when he was subbed in and the fans loved it.
Yudai Nishida and Soichiro Inoue barely missed the cut as players born in 1999, but certainly look like key parts of Japan’s future, too.
Jordan - Hashem Abbas
5.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game
Hashem only turned 23 in March, so we’re letting this slide a bit, especially considering how he performed in the third-place game against New Zealand. The younger Abbas brother had his ups and downs through the Asia Cup, but certainly ended the competition on a high note with 19 points and 4 rebounds.
Kazakhstan - Oleg Balashov
10.0 points and 2.7 assists per game on 37.5 percent three-point shooting
We’re stretching the parameters a bit here once again, but if that means we’re able to mention Oleg Balashov, that’s okay. The 1.85M (6’1”) guard was one of Kazakhstan’s top scorers despite being the youngest player on the team. Balashov has been playing well ever since the previous window of the World Cup Qualifiers and should continue to be a name to look for in upcoming competitions.
Korea - Lee WooSuk
4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game on 62.5 percent shooting, 50 percent three-point shooting
Another youngster on a veteran-heavy lineup, Lee WooSuk pushes our parameters again as a player born in 1999… but considering his strong finish in the Asia Cup, it’s only fair to list him here as well. The youngest player on this Korea squad saw limited minutes in the first three games, but once he was forced to play 27 minutes in the Quarter-Finals against New Zealand, Lee did relatively well with 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and no turnovers.
Lebanon - Yousef Khayat
5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game
While some might have felt that Khayat faded off a bit at the tailend of Asia Cup 2022, it must be reminded that he is a teenager that only recently turned 19 just a few months ago. Khayat had a strong start, highlighted by a 7-point, 5-rebound outing against New Zealand.
Expect to see a lot more from Khayat in the future.
Don’t forget about: Karim Zeinoun (born 1999) didn’t get as much time to shine in Asia Cup 2022, especially with Wael Arakji in MVP mode, but we’ve seen enough from him in the past to be convinced that he’ll eventually have his moments.
New Zealand - Flynn Cameron
13.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game
The fun part about the bronze medalists Tall Blacks in this Asia Cup was that they had a fun balance between their vets (Sam Timmins, Tohi Smith-Milner) and their rising stars. One that arguably took the biggest step forward in this competition was Flynn Cameron who just seemed to get better and better with each game. The 22-year-old ended up as the team’s leader in Efficiency (16.4), points, and assists, while also being just outside of the top three in rebounds. He ranks in the Top 20 among all qualified players at Asia Cup 2022 in those three categories as well.
Don’t forget about: The four Tall Blacks youngsters that recently played in the NCAA - Cameron, Sam Mennenga, Taine Murray, Cruz Perrott-Hunt - quickly made their presences felt. It would also be a shame to not mention Max Darling, who received any injury early in the competition, as well as sharpshooting Takiula Fahrensohn (born 1999).
Philippines - Carl Vincent Tamayo
12.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game on 38.9 percent three-point shooting
The Philippines were another team that featured many young players, which allowed a standout talent like Carl Tamayo to display his potential as high-level scoring forward with decent size at 2.01 M (6’7”). The 21-year-old was just one point shy of scoring double-digits in all games and finished second in the team in scoring
Don’t forget about: While Tamayo shined with his scoring, fellow 21-year-old Karl Quiambao stood out with his passing. The 1.93 (6’4”) forward averaged 4.8 assists per game, ranking at 8th among all qualified players to go with 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. The youngest player on the team, Francis Lopez (19), also had his highlight moments, while Geo Chiu (21), SJ Belangel (born 1999), and RJ Abarrientos (born 1999) are carving out their roles.
Saudi Arabia - Musab Kadi
5.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block in 20.6 minutes per game
Kadi (born 1999) headed into the Asia Cup as one of the youngsters to watch after his performance during the World Cup Qualifiers window. While his offense didn’t click as much as projected, the 22-year-old was still effective on the glass and on defense.
Syria - Omar Idelbi
3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game
Syria were on a mission to prove a point to their haters and the veterans had to shoulder the majority of that responsibility, not leaving much room for the youngsters like Idelbi (born 1999). However, in just 7.9 minutes per game, idelbi was still productive.
Don’t forget about: Elias Azrie was the youngest player on this team at just 20 years old. Though he played only 5.1 minutes per game, it’s a good sign that the former U18 Asian Championship 2018 player was on this squad and saw the court.