10 breakout stars of Asia in 2021 from Olympic-record setter to tantalizing teenagers
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10 breakout stars of Asia in 2021 from Olympic-record setter to tantalizing teenagers

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - As we near the end of 2021, it seems only appropriate for reflecting at what we have witnessed over this past year. We could come up with an endless list of games, players, and moments to highlight, but for this particular occasion, let’s focus on some players who “broke out” with their outstanding performances this year.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of how well these players have been playing already, so let this be a reminder of how much more you’ll hear about them in the future.

Dyson Daniels (Australia)

Asia basketball fans only got a quick glimpse of Dyson Daniels in 2021, but that was more than enough to be impressed.

Even though Daniels’ first game playing for the Boomers came before his 18th birthday, he made sure to put on a show with 23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals along with a win over New Zealand. Daniels had already been generating some buzz prior to this breakout performance, but there’s no doubt that his outstanding performance in the Asia Cup Qualifiers back in February solidified his spot among youngsters to watch.

While we haven’t seen Daniels in the Asia basketball scene since, he’s been doing quite well as a part of the G-League Ignite team. He’s been doing pretty well as well, averaging 11.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.7 steals in 31.8 minutes per game across 11 games.

We can’t wait for him to suit up for the Boomers again ASAP.

Dwight Ramos (Philippines)

To be honest, there are a lot of young players on the Philippines national team that really made a name for themselves this calendar year. It was clear to see how much they impressed the basketball scene in Asia as multiple players proceeded to sign professional deals playing in foreign countries whether it was Japan or Australia.

Among one of the players who has really put his name on the map through this past year is Dwight Ramos.

While one of the 23-year-old’s best performances so far is still her “perfect” game of 20 points on 100% shooting from the field and the free throw line against Thailand from back in 2020, his games in 2021 have only assured Philippines basketball fans that he is a star.

Aside from a double-double against Indonesia, Ramos also averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game in two contests against Korea. More than the numbers, Ramos also provided the team with maturity and leadership beyond his years.

There’s definitely a lot more to come from Ramos in the future and Philippines basketball fans - as well as Asia basketball fans - are more than looking forward to see how that goes.

Yeo Jun Seok (Korea)

There might have not been any other player that was a busy as Yeo Jun Seok during the late June early July window of 2021.

The 19-year-old started by scoring 23 points against Thailand at the Asia Cup Qualifiers to logging some valuable minutes at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament before up leading the charge for Korea at the U19 World Cup - all in the span on just a few weeks.

While playing for the senior national team at such a young age during both the Asia Cup Qualifiers and Olympics Qualifying Tournament was certainly quite an achievement, Yeo stood out for his performance at the U19 World Cup. The 2.03M (6’8”) forward led the entire tournament in scoring with 25.6 points per game and was second in rebounding with 10.6 board per contest.

Again, only one player averaged more rebounds and none scored more that Yeo at the world’s biggest stage of competition for youth basketball.

We’ll keep our eyes glued to see if he can do that at the senior level in the future.

Rui Machida (Japan)

Rui is by no means an overlooked star. She has been a key part and has had her moments as a part of the Japan national team in the past. Nonetheless, her accomplishments in the past certainly pales in comparison to what she was able to achieve in 2021.

She turned heads by dropping double-digit assists right in the very first game of the Tokyo Olympics. She followed that later by tying the Olympic single-game record at 15 assists. Her fans were probably still celebrating that record when Rui then broke her own record and the single-game record with a whopping 18 assists in the Semi-Finals.

However, more than recording-breaking amount of dimes, what was most impressive was that those assists were a key part in guiding Japan through to their Final, clinching the country’s first Olympic medal in basketball.

Saori Miyasaki (Japan)

Well, would you look at that? We have another Japanese point guard here as a breakout player in 2021.

Japan didn’t have Rui Machida on the squad for the Women’s Asia Cup 2021 Division A, but that didn’t matter as they marched on to win a 5th straight title. A key factor to their success for this run was the rise of Saori Miyasaki, yet another talented point guard in Japan’s deep talent pool.

The All-Star Five member averaged 11.6 points and 9.6 assists per game for Japan in their championship run, highlighted by 26 points and 11 assists in the title game. We’ve become used to seeing these types of stat lines from Japan national team point guards, but that shouldn’t make what Miyasaki did at the Women’s Asia Cup any less spectacular.

Rebecca Akl (Lebanon)

Akl isn’t exactly an unknown name in Asia’s women’s basketball scene, but it’s certainly been a while since we’ve seen her in action for Lebanon.

Akl and Lebanon were both back in action for the Women’s Asia Cup Division B… and they completely took over the competition.

Lebanon won all of their 4 games, including a 40-point thrashing in the Final over Jordan.

Akl finished with averages of 19.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per contest. These averages were good enough to finish among top 10 in all categories.

This wasn’t an unexpected performance from a player of Akl’s caliber, but it was certainly refreshing to see after a long while.

Mohammed Alsuwailem (Saudi Arabia)

To be completely fair, Mohammed Alsuwailem “broke out” way before 2021. He’s been Saudi Arabia’s main big man since the Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers and that hasn’t changed as the level of competition has gotten higher in the later stages.

However, when you go through the calendar year with two separate 5-block games, that’s definitely worth highlighting. Alsuwailem swatted away 5 shots in the Asia Cup Qualifiers against Syria back in June and then repeated with another 5 blocks against India in the Asia Cup Qualifying Tournament for Third Ranked Teams. These two games stand as the most blocks in a game through the Asia Cup Qualifiers, also easily making Alsuwailem the leader in total blocks and blocks per game as well.

This cleared the path for Saudi Arabia to qualify for their first ever FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers where Alsuwailem can continue to terrorize the paint for opposing players.

Lin Ting-Chien (Chinese Taipei)

What a breaking out party it was for Lin Ting-Chien in 2021.

Ever since his outstanding display during the FIBA U17 World Cup 2016, it had been expected that Lin would someday become a really good player for the senior national team. 5 years later, the rising star proved just that immediately in his first senior national team event and he couldn’t have picked a better setting to perform.

At the Asia Cup Qualifying Tournament for Third Ranked Teams, Chinese Taipei needed some superstar performances from their players in order to edge Guam out for the final Asia Cup spot. That’s exactly what they got from Lin who logged more than 20 points in both contests to average 25.0 points along with 3.5 steals per game. More than posting the raw numbers, Lin even stepped up in the clutch for Chinese Taipei and drained a cold-blooded jump shot that sealed the deal for good.

The expectations for Lin’s senior national team career have been lofty from the early stages, but his first two games here in 2021 may have even exceeded those expectations.

Zhao Rui (China)

Being a part of a talent pool as deep as China, standing out and making a lasting impression is not easy. But when you explode for 27 points on 6 three-pointers to go with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals as Zhao Rui did against Japan during the first window the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers, the fans will be put on notice.

Zhao was consistent through the window and finished with an impressive stat line of 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 3.5 steals per game. His stellar play played a key part in China claiming both victories in Sendai over Japan and could make coach Du Feng’s job a little bit harder when he has to decide on his guard rotation.

Yousef Khayat (Lebanon)

Lebanon basketball fans were all waiting for Khayat to make his debut ever since the Asia Cup Qualifiers. So when that didn’t happen, they just had to wait a little bit longer.

It certainly felt worth the wait when Khayat took the court against Indonesia and proceeded to show the world why he’s one of Asia’s most promising young talents. Mixing his combination of size and speed, Khayat dazzled for 12 points in his debut, highlighted by some quality dunks.

We’re pretty certain that Khayat will have some bigger performances down the road, but his first game right out of the gates will have certainly turned some heads.