01 May, 2022
28 February, 2023
8 Anand Ariunbold (MGL)
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Future-oriented Mongolia out to make a 'big statement,' says Anand Ariunbold

ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia) - A celebration ensued when Mongolia headed back to their locker room at the UG Arena, with everyone exchanging high fives and exulting following a masterful win over Singapore, Saturday night.

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It was a match where the Blue Wolves could do no wrong, leaving their Southeast Asian foes searching for any answer that never came while the appreciative home crowd couldn't be any happier with what they saw.

They posted easily one of the most lopsided wins of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Pre-Qualifiers, but the 73-49 victory meant so much more than that.

It meant that they have accomplished their goal of making it to the Asia Cup Qualifiers. Yes, a stage much bigger, where the lights are brighter.

That's quite an achievement for a nation that had just made its FIBA seniors debut in the First Round of the Pre-Qualifiers last November, where they garnered attention in the region after winning three of their four matches.

But the Mongolian cagers aren't just happy to have made it. For national team stalwart Anand Ariunbold, it is just the start for him and the squad.

"Well, this is just the beginning," said the versatile 1.97 M (6'6") guard, who has been part of the Blue Wolves for about five years now.


It's only natural for Ariunbold to have faith with his team. After all, his teammates have become brothers. The entire team has become family.

But it's also because he believed that Mongolia basketball was about to head into the same trajectory it's in now, when the country emerged as one of the best in the world after achieving glory in the 3x3 stage.

In 2017, it won the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup following a 19-14 victory over New Zealand in Ulaanbaatar to become just the second team to cop the continental gold. The next two meets would see them finish with silver medals.

"Mongolia is considered the champion of the continent and one of the strongest teams in the world in the 3x3 category, and it is a sign that we all have the opportunity to compete in the 5x5 category," he said.

Ariunbold himself has made a name in the halfcourt game as well. Just a year after making his Blue Wolves debut in the 2018 Asian Games, he decided to dabble into 3x3 and steadily rose as one of its stars.

His crowning glory, perhaps, was winning the 2022 FIBA 3x3 World Tour Most Spectacular Player of the Year after shining with Sansar MMC Energy.


So, the 25-year-old has already represented his homeland multiple times in both events, thus the immense gratitude on his part.

"It is a dream of an athlete to represent his country," said Ariunbold, who aspired to become a pro back when he was 16 years young -- during his high school years in Japan. "Right now, I'm living my dream."


One could say that the seeds were planted over at 3x3 but nevertheless, Mongolia basketball is reaping the benefits of its efforts to develop the game and, most importantly, the young hoopers for the future.

Ariunbold was actually one of those who's part of the program's plans for the long-term. He was one of the youngest in that Asiad team at 21; now, he's become a key cog to the team mentored by Ijilbold Chimegdorj.

But what excites him more is the time when the talents currently gaining exposure and experience overseas join forces for the national team.

University of Dayton standout Mike Sharavjamts. Batbayar Narangerel of the Seoul Samsung Thunders in the Korean Basketball League (KBL). Bayasgalan Delgerchuluun with the Taichung Suns of Taiwan's T1 League.

And surely, there will be more players that will tread the same paths those aforementioned have taken, which would only make Blue Wolves veteran Sanchir Tungalag beaming with pride -- being a trailblazer himself.

For starters, the 33-year-old legend was the first Mongolian pro baller to play in a foreign league in two decades when he played for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in 2015.

Once all those ripened talents make up the pack, Ariunbold is convinced that they can all make a 'big statement in the region,' something that they could do when the Asia Cup Qualifiers get rolling later this year.

"I think that Mongolian basketball will be able to compete with the big Asian powers on the world stage in the future," he said. "We have full potential to compete strongly at the Asian level."

"With the future of Mongolian basketball, with young players starting to play in the U.S. and other major leagues, the Blue Wolves are close to making a big statement in the region," added Ariunbold.