03 - 26
April 2024
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Azbayar Altangerel: The Taekwon-Dunker

ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia) - There aren't that many young athletes that will have as eventful of a first week being 19 years of age than Azbayar Altangerel.

The 2.04M (6'8") prospect celebrated his birthday on March 28, put up a top-notch highlight of a putback dunk one day later in Singapore at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2024, won Bronze a few days later, and now has a quick turnaround home to prepare for the Basketball Champions League Asia (BCL Asia) Qualifiers Round 1 where he will be playing for Ulaanbaatar Xac Broncos.

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"Although I have only recently started playing basketball, I am very happy to represent Mongolia in this big tournament, but I also consider it a great responsibility," said Altangerel.

While having just added a year to his age total, he knows what comes with these opportunities even if he's still only a teenager. Then again, not many teenagers have the experience that Altangerel has.


Just two weeks ago, he celebrated with the Broncos a title in Mongolia's "The League". Two months ago, he was named Rookie of the Year after averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.


"This was my first major league," he said while thanking everyone involved in the title run, all the way through to the loyal fans.

"Throughout the competition, I was able to learn so much from my teammates - my brothers - and opponents and it was invaluable. Having given all our strength and heart, the team is very happy to win the championship together."

Not many get to play professional sports for their childhood favorite club. Fewer get to win titles with them to add to the club's legacy.

"I have been a loyal fan of the Khasin Khuleguud [the localized name for Ulaanbaatar Xac Broncos] for a long time. I consider myself so lucky that I couldn’t believe it when my dream of one day playing for this team came true," he said.

In between all of those accomplishments at the club level, Altangerel also made his senior national team debut in Window 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers, playing and scoring in their clash against Guam at home.

For a country that takes much pride in being able to represent the nation, especially in sports, it meant a lot to Altangerel.

"It was a great honor for me to play with my brothers and other athletes whom I respect and also to represent our country with them. I played as hard as I could without losing the trust of the people who believed in me," he said of the experience.

All of this is only just from this year.

The young gun has been proudly representing the "Land of the Eternal Blue Sky" for a while now, namely on the 3x3 platform like many of his Mongolian peers.

In 2023, he played for Mongolia at the 3x3 U18 World Cup. That was a result of his and the team's performance at the 3x3 U17 Asia Cup in 2022.

But there's more.

Altangerel also keeps himself busy by making Mongolia proud… on the Taekwondo mat. He's been actively competing at Asian and World Championships since 2019, both at the senior and youth levels. It's a sport that he picked up even before he started throwing down dunks on the hardwood.

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"I started practicing taekwondo when I was 11 years old," said the athletic big man. "I believe that taekwondo has given me a lot of courage, endurance, physical and mental strength because taekwondo athletes fight head-to-head with opponents rather than in teams."

Practicing taekwondo has not only prepared Altangerel for facing his opponents on the mat, he's found out that it helps him on the basketball court as well.

"I think [taekwondo] has become a good foundation for basketball and helped me to be more successful because it also gave me the mental training and the ability to never give up."

"It is a sport that requires great speed, stretching, jumping, and strength. Now, I think it gave me the basic skills needed to play on the basketball court," he explained.

He takes a similar approach with 3x3 as in learning which aspects of the different sports he plays to utilize on the court.

"Of course, [playing 3x3] influences [me playing basketball] to a certain extent. Many things can be added to the game that requires quick agility and quick transitions from attack to defense and from defense to attack without time to rest."

Combine the physical skills from taekwondo with the techniques he's gained by playing the 3x3 game, and you can see why he's a unique and promising prospect for Mongolia basketball.

Living a multi-sports life can be tough both physically and mentally, especially for a teenager, but young Azbayar won't have it any other way. Not when he's seen throughout literally his entire life how to do it and succeed by watching his father.

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"One of the reasons for my love for sports is my father, J. Altangerel, who is a master of shooting and powerlifting. Since childhood, I dreamed of becoming the same as my father, seeing my father as my example."

The results so far say that the senior Altangerel has been a great example. Aside from the recent 3x3 Asia Cup 2024, he also claimed bronze at the 3x3 U17 Asia Cup 2022 and the 2022 Asian Championship in taekwondo.

"Of course, any athlete gets a lot of pleasure from every victory. It was the best feeling to reap the benefits of long hours of training. It was the best feeling to be the person your team needs," said Altangerel of those accomplishments.

The next step now is to be the player that the Broncos need in the BCL Asia Qualifiers. The Mongolian champions will face Singapore champions Adroit Club on April 3. Then they'll face Indonesian powerhouse Pelita Jaya Basketball on April 4. After a rest day, it will be a clash against Thailand champions Hi-Tech Basketball Club on April 6.

There will be no easy games as all of the clubs in Group B will be gunning for that top spot to directly make it to Round 2. There's still hope finishing at second or third place in the group, but that means a decisive matchup on April 7 against the third- and second-placed teams, respectively, from Group A. That could be against any of the teams from Hong Kong, China champs Hong Kong Eastern, Malaysia champions NS Matrix Deers, Indonesia champions Prawira Harum Bandung, or local Finals rivals Bishrelt Metal.

That's why the Broncos would love to have their star rookie be at his best for the upcoming games at the UG Arena in Ulaanbaatar. Considering the potential he has flashed in just a short few years, there's a lot to be hopeful for from the Taekwon-Dunker.