The Ironmen of the Asian Qualifiers: Who played every game?
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Among the skills a basketball player needs to make a presence on the court, one of the more underrated is “availability”. Some call athletes that have excelled in this skill “Iron men” due to their being available to be called upon by their teams such as NBA’s AC Green (1192 consecutive games) or MLB’s Cal Ripken Jr. (8264 consecutive games).
Likewise, there were 17 players in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers who can be considered Ironmen or heroes for their national teams for their commitment and availability that allowed them to play in all available games across the six windows.
Eight teams were able to rely on the services of these 17 players as they embarked on their journey to qualify for the World Cup. Five teams had more than one player that were called upon and responded every window, with Kazakhstan boasting an outstanding core of five players that the coaching staff could count on.
Here are some of the top players that qualified for the World Cup that can be considered Iron men or heroes for their national teams:
Dwight Ramos, Philippines
They call him “The Saint”. The moniker originated from a viral clip that saw a fan praying on his back not long after his Gilas debut in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and it just stuck. Considering the way that Ramos had played for the Philippines through the Asian Qualifiers, it’s a moniker that fits as well.
Across all 10 games for the Philippines, this Saint has blessed the Philippines with 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals in 28.3 minutes per game. The 1.93M (6’4”) guard isn’t a vocal leader, but he leads by example where he puts in high-level effort with high-level results which makes it a no-brainer why the Gilas coaching staff always has him listed to represent the country.
Ethan Rusbatch, New Zealand
It’s never a bad idea to have a long-range sharpshooter always available in the lineup and the Tall Blacks always had one through the Asian Qualifiers in Ethan Rusbatch.
The 30-year-old shooting guard shot 37.1 percent from downtown across all of the Tall Blacks 10 games, among one of the best in the Asian Qualifiers especially considering he took 7.5 attempts per game. Rusbatch made a three-pointer in all 10 games with multiple makes in 7 games and 3 games with at least 4 made triples.
New Zealand were among one of only four teams in the Asian Qualifiers to make at least 10 three-pointers per game and with Rusbatch playing in every game, he’s a big reason why.
Mohammad Jamshidi, Iran
Iran are headed back to a fourth straight World Cup. The streak of appearances began with the “Golden Generation” of Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkah Bahrami, and Mahdi Kamrani and those legends have now passed on the torch. One of the stars that have been trusted with carrying on Iran’s tradition is Mohammad Jamshidi and he’s been taking on the role seriously, playing in all 11 games available.
Across these games, Jamshidi has been one of the best players for Iran with averages of 16.2 points and 4.1 assists in 30.7 minutes per contest. No other game properly highlights Jamshidi’s importance as his 41-point performance against Syria in the First Round, a record that stands as tied for most points scored in a World Cup 2023 Qualifiers game across all regions.
Freddy Ibrahim, Jordan
Speaking of recorded broken and held, you have to mention Freddy Ibrahim. Not only did he play in all of Jordan’s 12 games of the Asian Qualifiers, but Ibrahim also shined in these games.
Aside from averaging 10.9 points per game, the 1.90M (6’3”) point guard dished out 7.3 dimes per game for a total of 88 assists - the most by any player in the World Cup 2023 Qualifiers and more than the second player on the list by 27 assists.
It should then come as no surprise that Ibrahim had four games of dropping 10 or more dimes. As a matter of fact, Ibrahim holds the record for the most and second-most amount of assists in a single game of the Asian Qualifiers with 14 (vs New Zealand) and 13 (vs India). That total of 14 assists is also tied for most in the Qualifiers across all regions.
Ahmad Alhamarsheh, Jordan
Alhamarsheh might not have put up gaudy numbers as the other names mentioned above. However, he’s a hard-nosed forward that provided veteran leadership for Jordan through their returning run to another World Cup.
The 36-year-old averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game for the Golden Falcons.
Rustam Murzagaliyev, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan were only one win away from a historic World Cup qualification. One of their key strengths was the cohesion of their team, despite not have a big-time star to rely on. This was a result of have five of their players (Murzagaliyev, Dimitriy Gavrilov, Oleg Balashov, Roman Marchuk, and Anton Bykov) all available for their games.
The quintet was led by Murzagaliyev who averaged 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in 30.3 minutes of action.
Khalid Abdel Gabar, Saudi Arabia
Another team that was in contention for a World Cup qualification spot down to the very last window were Saudi Arabia.
They were able to be in that situation because of the consistent high-quality level of play provided by Khalid Abdel Gabar who did not miss a single game for the Mean Green Machine. Abdel Gabar averaged 11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals in just under 30 minutes per game for his team while also being among the best in EFF with 14.3 per contest.
It was not only Abdel Gabar either as Mathna Almarwani also played in all 12 games for Saudi Arabia, averaging 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Here is the full list of Ironmen:
Bahrain: Mohammed Hamood, Maitham Isa
India: Muin Bek Hafeez, Prashant Singh Rawat, Arvind Kumar Muthu Krishnan (10 of 10 games)
Iran: Mohammad Jamshidi (11 of 11 games)
Jordan: Freddy Ibrahim, Ahmad Alhamarsheh
Kazakhstan: Rustam Murzagaliyev, Dimitriy Gavrilov, Oleg Balashov, Roman Marchuk, Anton Bykov
New Zealand: Ethan Rusbatch (10 of 10 games)
Philippines: Dwight Ramos (10 of 10 games)
Saudi Arabia: Khalid Abdel Gabar, Mathna Almarwani
The players who appeared in all but one game:
Iran: Arsalan Kazemi, Sajjad Mashayekhi
Jordan: Sami Bzai
Kazakhstan: Maxim Marchuk, Shaim Kuanov
Lebanon: Hayk Gyokchyan, Karim Zeinoun