19 February, 2024
25 February, 2025
10 Hamad Yassin I M Mousa (QAT)
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Youth movement in full swing as World Cup hosts Qatar begin build-up now

TEHRAN (Iran) - While Window 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers marks the start of the road toward the prestigious continental showpiece, other programs also look at it as an opportunity to start afresh, and build the best possible team they could in this new cycle.

Qatar are one of them, keen on honing and developing their young players into becoming deserving flag-bearers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2027 that will be held on their home floor. It will be the country's very first time to host the sport's biggest event.

"Our target is to create a good team for the 2027 World Cup in Qatar," offered Thanasis Skourtopoulos, who was appointed as the program's head coach last year.

The Qataris came into Window 1 of the ongoing Qualifiers as one of its youngest teams with only an average of 23. Their talent pool features 10 players born in the 2000s.

That includes Hamad Yassin Mousa (16), Mohammad Ndao (16), and Hashim Abbasher (19),all of which could potentially form part of the future core given their experience together.

The trio were among those picked from the youth level and it should no longer come as a surprise that they're now in the seniors squad. Aside from established chemistry, they've proven themselves worthy from that stint in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2022.

They were Qatar's leading scorers in the Iran-hosted tournament, wherein the team finished 8th. Mousa led the pack with averages of 14.8 points, followed by Abbasher with 13.5 points and a team-best 7.5 rebounds. Ndao, lastly, had 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.

But then, there are still plenty more younger players which the team is looking to hone. "We believe in these guys. We have five more, or six of them," said Skourtopoulus, formerly the Greece men's team mentor. "We work a lot, and we hope in the future that they'll play."

It's safe to say that Qatar's journey towards their goal is off to a good start. Sure, they did lose to Iran, 76-74, in their Asia Cup Qualifiers opener last February 2023 at the Azadi Basketball Hall in Tehran, but not before dragging the continental powerhouse to an overtime period.

Mousa, who plays for Al Rayyan in the FIBA West Asia Super League, provided significant contributions in the near-upset with 10 points, giving out solid support to an offense led by lead forward Babacar Dieng (19 points) and guard Mike Lewis (17 points).

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To have gotten so close in beating a team as storied as Iran is already a huge success for a program that's still taking baby steps toward their goal, according to the veteran coach.

"If we were a little bit lucky in the end, maybe we could have taken this. That was a very, very big success starting the group like this," said the 58-year-old Skourtopoulos.

"I think Iran is the most powerful team in the group, so we came here, played, played a good game. We didn’t make it in the end, but I’m very satisfied with the kids," he added.

Still, as gratifying as it was, Skourtopoulos is calling for his young wards to trust the process and continue to stay locked in, for the work is just beginning for all of them.

"They need to be patient, work, and everything will happen," he said.