MVPs for each team to look out for in the Second Round
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - The FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Pre-Qualifiers are set to shift into high gear sooner following the First Round's conclusion just recently.
Fifteen nations duked it out in 2 different windows in 5 months, but only 12 earned the chance of realizing their dreams of reaching the ever prestigious continental showpiece in the Pre-Qualifiers' final phase in February next year.
In those teams were figures who stood out in keeping their Asia Cup hopes very much alive, while some gave reasons to be excited about for the future.
So, we take a look at the squads' respective 'Most Valuable Players' -- those we should also see more of in the highly-anticipated Second Round.
IRAQ - DeMario Mayfield
DeMario Mayfield has been the designated naturalized player of Iraq for about half a decade now, and the First Round proved to be yet another example why the team stilt trusts the 1.9M (6'3") winger all these years.
He's the Pre-Qualifiers' best assist man with 13.0 dimes a game, alongside his 18.0 points to become just one of the few to average a double-double. The 31-year-old also has 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals to his name.
Mayfield was a big reason behind Iraq's breakthrough. He had 15 markers, 14 dimes, 8 boards, and 2 steals in their 91-80 victory over Kuwait.
KUWAIT - Alex Alghais
Alex Alghais has just begun his journey with Kuwait, but he's already made a strong case as to why he should be part of the long-term plans.
Formerly a part of Germany's youth team, the 29-year-old leads his side in scoring with an average of 18.5 points, which ranks 9th in the Pre-Qualifiers. He's shot 45.5-percent from the field and has a 12.5 efficiency rating.
Alghais was quick to make an impression right in his first FIBA game, dropping 22 points on a quartet of 3-pointers against Iraq.
OMAN - Mahmoud Al-Souli
Do not let Mahmoud Al-Souli's frame fool you. Sure, his build may be atypical of the usual basketball player, but he's a hooper, straight up.
The 2.03M (6'8") forward leads his team in efficiency with a rating of 13.5, thanks mainly to his per-game averages of 13.0 points on 45-percent shooting from the field, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.0 assists in 31.9 minutes.
His best outing came in their first game against Qatar, which saw him fire 18 points on a troika of 3-pointers, on top of 7 boards, 2 dimes, and a steal.
PALESTINE - Efosa Osayande
Palestine finished as the best team in Group B by winning both of their matches and Efosa Osayande was on the forefront of their success.
Among the five best scorers of the Pre-Qualifiers, the 29-year-old is averaging 21.0 points on a fourth-best 58.3-percent field goal shooting. He is also the tournament leader in rebounds (13.0) and in efficiency (29.0).
Osayande had 20 and 13 in their win against Iraq, and then posted almost the same numbers versus Kuwait with 22 and 13 but submitted a full line as he also registered 2 assists, 1 steal, and a pair of blocks in 36 minutes.
QATAR - Babacar Dieng
Qatar came into the Pre-Qualifiers with a team that only has an average age of 23 but Babacar Dieng showed that the youth-laden team can compete.
Not only compete, but win. The squad swept both of their assignments in Group A, with the 25-year-old leading the way with 17.5 points.
The 1.95M (6'5") guard wowed right in their first game, scoring 22 points alongside 5 rebounds and 3 steals in their 73-62 win over Oman.
UAE - Qais Omar Alshabebi
One of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017's stars, Qais Omar Alhshabebi is bringing his vast experience leading UAE in the Pre-Qualifiers.
The 31-year-old tops the team with 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, numbers that landed him in the Top 10 of both statistical categories.
His best showing took place in their very first assignment, firing 27 points and 8 rebounds to power UAE to a 74-65 victory over Oman.
GUAM - Jericho Cruz
Jericho Cruz made sure that Guam would finish Group C via sweep, turning in his best outing of the Pre-Qualifiers to help his side escape Hong Kong.
The shifty combo guard came through in the endgame to extinguish their foes' fiery rally from 18 down, eventually finishing with a full line of 21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block in the 67-64 victory.
Cruz ended the First Round with norms of 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 steals, embracing the leadership role entrusted to him by no head coach EJ Calvo with the departure of national team vanguards.
HONG KONG - Choi Kwan Tsai
Choi Kwan Tsai was on the forefront of Hong Kong's near-upset of Guam in their Pre-Qualifiers debut as he finished with a game-best 24 points.
It would've been so much better had that impressive outing resulted in a win. Nonetheless, noteworthy was his performance that saw him shoot 50-percent from the floor -- 4-of-8 from deep -- and collect 5 rebounds.
He would, fortunately, see his efforts lead to the desired result the following night. Hong Kong mauled Singapore, 74-50, for their first win, with the 27-year-old leading the way with 20 points on top of 2 rebounds and 5 assists.
MALAYSIA - Wong Yi Hou
At 26, Wong Yi Hou has grown into one of Malaysia program's cornerstones with the countless battles he's had with the national team.
And the Pre-Qualifiers is proof that the 1.91M (6'3") forward is more than ready to steer Harimau back to the Asia Cup. He emerged as the best scorer of the First Round with 24.8 points, with 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
His personal-best of 29 points went for naught in a loss to Mongolia but Hou kept going. He went on to drop 27 versus Tahiti for win no. 1, then had 24 in their conquest of Vietnam that punched their ticket to the Second Round.
MONGOLIA - Sanchir Tungalag
Over 3,000 fans trooped to the UG Arena to watch Mongolia play in their first FIBA seniors competition and Sanchir Tungalag made it one for the books.
Touted as one of the best players of the nation, the 33-year-old captain made 36 points, turning in the Pre-Qualifiers' best scoring performance to date to power the home team to a 94-92 victory over Malaysia for a triumphant debut.
Tungalag would go on to average a 5th-best 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists as Mongolia finished the First Round with a 3-1 record.
SINGAPORE - Shi Yu Ng
Shi Yu Ng is one of the younger talents in the ongoing Pre-Qualifiers but showed that he's more than capable to lead Singapore.
The 22-year-old was the Southeast Asian side's top scorer and rebounder with 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds across 2 games, highlighted by a 12-9 performance against Guam to open their campaign.
Also leading the team in efficiency with a rating of 10.0, Ng also has 1.5 assists and 1.0 blocks to his line in 28.9 minutes of playing time.
THAILAND - Freddie Lish
He may be new to the FIBA competitions, but Freddie Lish has long established himself as one of the most important players of Thailand.
The 34-year-old was mainly responsible for the Southeast Asian side's 4-game sweep of the First Round. In their last assignment, he dropped 30 points on 8 triples to star in their 109-105 come-from-behind win versus Mongolia.
Lish ended up with averages of 24.0 points on a 50-percent clip from beyond the arc, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.8 steals in 26 minutes for the best shooting team of the Pre-Qualifiers (47.6-percent).