20 under 20 Asian stars who should shine in the 2020s - Part Two
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) - Last week, I named the first ten players on my list of the best 20 Asian players who will or are yet to turn 20 years old this year. Included among those were players based in the United States like Kai Sotto, Michael Wang and Chikara Tanaka as well as those who have already seen action in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers like Muzamil Hamoda and Princepal Singh.
Today, I will reveal the second half my list, and I hope they will serve as inspiring figures for future generations of Asian hoopsters. I certainly expect these kids to shine big time in the 2020s.
Please take note that I "cheated" a bit with this latter half of the list. You'll see what I mean in a bit.
So without further ado, here are the names completing my 20 under 20.
Jonah Morrison (Chinese Taipei)
We should have seen Jonah Morrison as early as the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2015, where Chinese Taipei finished second overall behind Korea, but a knee injury sidelined him for that competition, so we had to wait three years to see him suit up at the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018 in Thailand. Morrison didn't disappoint, though, leading his team in rebounds, blocks and player efficiency. Now, the 6ft 8in/2.03m 19-year-old is seeing action for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, and he should form the backbone of Taipei's frontline of the future together with contemporaries Wu Pei-Chia and Tseng Hsiang-Chun.
Rayan and Alex Zanbaka (Lebanon)
And this is where I cheat. The Zanbaka brothers represent a bright future for Lebanese basketball. Rayan, who just turned 19 years old, was Lebanon's best scorer in the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2018, averaging 20.1 points per game, while younger brother Alex, who will turn 18 later this year, had his turn to lead the Junior Cedars in scoring at the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018, putting up 15.8 points per contest. Both players have also attracted attention from outside of Lebanon, with Rayan committing to US NCAA Division 1 school Lafayette College and Alex leading John Paul II high school to the 6A Texas State title. I think they deserve a bit of latitude in this list, so I bunched them as one entry.
Matin Aghajanpour (Iran)
I remember Matin dropping a tournament-high 39 points on Chinese Taipei in the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2018, and to nobody's surprise, he eventually led the entire competition in scoring with 23.2 points per game. He was the only player from that U16 team to make it to Iran's U18 roster later in the year, and Matin also impressed there, registering 9.7 points per game. At 6ft 8in/2.02m, he has good size coupled with terrific mobility and shooting to be a truly exciting prospect as a combo forward for Iran in the future.
Yuki Kawamura (Japan)
At just 19 years old, Kawamura has already achieved what most Japanese players can only dream of - high school basketball titles, multiple stints with the national youth team and being named to the All-Rookie Team in the recent 2019-2020 B.League Awards. The diminutive Kawamura is among the quickest players in the continent, has great court vision and is a master at stealing the basketball. Would it be too surprising if this Kawamura replaces another Yuki - Togashi - on the national team in the next decade? I don't think so.
Yeo JunSeok (Korea)
The 6ft 8in/2.04m Yeo was a tower of power for Korea at the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018 in Thailand, where he wound up averaging 16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but he was even more impressive at the 11th Basketball Without Borders Asia camp last year. In that event, the 18-year-old Yeo was a genuine standout, being named and All-Star and the camp's Most Valuable Player. We would've seen him at this year's FIBA U18 Asia Championship as well, where he surely would have been among the top big men, too. Give the NBA Global Academy member a few more years of seasoning, and he should be an excellent understudy for Lee SeoungHyun and Kan SangJae at power forward for the senior national team.
Carl Tamayo (Philippines)
One terrific big man merits another, and for sure, one guy we cannot leave off this list is the Philippines' Tamayo. The 19-year-old hasn't seen action in any FIBA Asia event, but he shines whenever he plays at the world level. In last year's FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece, the 6ft 7in/2.01m forward stepped up big time after AJ Edu got injured. Tamayo, who just led his high school team to back-to-back titles in Manila, was splendid for the Filipinos, averaging 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 triples per game - definitely proving he could hack it with some of the world's best players in his age group. He, Edu and Kai Sotto will be the core of the Philippines' national team for years to come.
Keisei Tominaga (Japan)
It seems timely that just about when legendary shooter Takehiko Orimo finally decides to hang his sneakers, a dead-shot is rising in the youth ranks in Japan. Keisei Tominaga is that kid. At only 5ft 11in/1.81m, Tominaga will never be the most imposing figure on the court, but he can kill you with his sweet shooting prowess. He finished among the top five in scoring at both the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2018 and the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018 while also averaging more than three made three-pointers per contest. If Tominaga grows a few more inches, he could be a prime option at the shooting guard spot for the Akatsuki Five in a few years' time.
Amaan Sandhu (India)
Amaan was one of 64 high school prospects to participate in the sixth annual Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Chicago and the only one from India. At 6ft 11in/2.11m and just 17 years old, Amaan is one of India's brightest big man prospects, and he's also expected to grow his game even more, especially since as the son of two former Indian national team players (Gursharanjeet Singh Sandhu and Rajinder Kaur Sandhu), Amaan has front row access to first-rate basketball training. He was also the youngest call-up to India's roster for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers earlier this year, and it stands to reason we will see even more of him in India's colors as the years pass by.
Sun Haoqin (China)
One cannot talk about promising young guns without talking about China's phenom, Sun Haoqin. At just 15 years old, Sun already showed his offensive prowess by leading China in scoring at the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2018 as well as the FIBA U17 World Cup 2018, where he was 7th overall with 16.7 points per game. Since he was born in 2003, Sun also would have been eligible for both the FIBA U16 Asia Championship and FIBA U18 Asia Championship this year. At 6ft 3in/1.91m, Sun has good size for a wingman, though he may have to learn to be a better ball-handler and playmaker if he will continue to be a prime player in China's national team pipeline.
Yousef Khayat (Lebanon)
Aside from Sun, Yousef Khayat is the only other guy born after 2002 on this list, and that's for good reason. Khayat played for Lebanon in both the FIBA U16 Asia Championship 2018 and the FIBA U18 Asia Championship 2018, where despite being among the youngest players in the entire field, he would hold his own against bigger and older foes. Standing 6ft 7in/2.00m and having just turned 17 a couple of months ago, Khayat was primed to be Lebanon's top player for their youth teams this year, and his past performances give credence to that impression. He averaged around 9 points and 7 rebounds in the U16 Asia Championship in Foshan before also doing well at the U18 Asia Championship in Thailand, putting up around 7 points and 5 boards per outing.
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