23 September, 2015
03 October
Mahdi Kamrani (IRI)
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2015 FIBA Asia Championship Preview - Group A

CHANGSHA-HUNAN (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - In the lead-up to the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship taking place in Changsha-Hunan from 23 September-3 October, we take a look at each of the four groups.

Here's a look at Group A.

Preparation period: India didn't have a lot to smile about in the run-up to the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. First off, erstwhile coach Scott Flemming, the man who was a big reason for India's steady rise in the past two years, resigned and moved back to the States. Secondly, promising young big man Satnam Singh Bhamara, who was selected in last June's NBA Draft, decided to forego the Asian tournament this year so he could concentrate on his professional career. For much of the team's training, their top two players, Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh, also couldn't join since they have been playing in Japan. Needless to say, the preparations have been far from ideal for India.

Star player: The time is now for Amjyot Singh to be this team's main weapon. The 2.03m forward has an absolutely enviable skill-set. He can put the ball on the floor, attack the basket with ferocity, hit the mid-range and long-range jumpers and protect the rim like crazy. He was solid for India at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds per game. He dropped 13 points as India registered a near-impossible win over mighty China. Amjyot has always been solid for the Indians, but they will need him to really shine here.

Strengths and weaknesses: With Amjyot Singh, Amrit Pal Singh (2.07m), Gurvinder Singh Gill (2.00m), and young Akashdeep Hazra (2.13m), India will certainly not be lacking in size. Without veteran guards like Pratham Singh, Narender Grewal, and Joginder Singh, though, the backcourt may be something of a work in progress for coach Sat Prakash. The onus, then, will be on the explosive Vishesh Bhriguvanshi to make things happen.

Preparation period: The defending champions will remain thus until they are dethroned. So far, Iran have stamped their class even in tune-up games, winning the 2015 William Jones Cup in dominant fashion. Prior to that, Team Melli also did well in the Atlas 8-Nations Tournament in China, finishing second to the hosts. Except for some minor nagging issues, the players also look healthy, which augurs well for their chances to successfully defend the crown they won two years ago in Manila.

Star player: As the oldest player on the team, Mahdi Kamrani will be the undisputed general on the court. At 33 years of age, he may be entering the twilight of his continental career and will surely want to go out guns blazing. Additionally he will also play with a chip on his shoulder as he wants to unseat Filipino Jayson Castro from his spot as Asia's #1 point guard.

Strengths and weakness: Throughout their pre-tournament games and preparation, Iran have rarely shown any weakness. They have great size at every position, they are potent from anywhere on the floor, and they are very well-coached. On paper, this is the perfect team to win the continent's lone outright spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Preparation period: Fresh from a tough period in their national federation's history, Japan have bounced back admirably, impressing in the Atlas 8-Nations Tournament, in a couple of tune-up games against a selection from the Czech Republic and in the 2015 Jones Cup. Yes, the absence of some key players - Kosuke Takeuchi and Yuta Watanabe in particular - have held the team back somehow, but they remain committed to play at a very high level in Changsha-Hunan.

Star player: With Kosuke Takeuchi out, the onus is on the returning Joji Takeuchi to patrol the paint. The Japanese will give up a lot of size, but Joji remains a top-tier big man in the continent. His size, mobility and versatility should keep opposing frontcourt defenders busy while also opening things up on the perimeter for shooters like Kosuke Kanamaru, Keijuro Matsui, and Takatoshi Furukawa.

Strengths and weaknesses: Whereas the frontline will be relatively weak, Japan will excel tremendously at the perimeter positions. Kanamaru leads the way here, with fellow sharpshooters Matsui and Furukawa raring to launch from the parking lot. Yuta Tabuse, that smallish guy who played a few games for the Phoenix Suns back in the day, will also play in the FIBA Asia Championship for, get this, the first time ever. He's the oldest one on this squad at age 34, but he still packs a punch. If coach Kenji Hasegawa's wingmen can get hot and Joji Takeuchi holds his own in the paint, Team Hayabusa may be a surprise some of the more fancied contenders.

Preparation period: Malaysia have remained quiet in terms of their preparations, but their experiences at the 2015 SEABA Tournament and 2015 SEA Games should have sharpened their sights somehow. They finished second in the SEABA joust, besting ballyhooed Singapore and placing just behind the Philippines, so there is some fire in this unheralded quintet.

Star player: 1.96m forward Ivan Yeo may be a little undersized for his position at the continental level, but that shouldn't stop him from being one of the most promising members of this team. He averaged a double-double in the SEABA competition, putting up around 13 points and 15 rebounds per contest. Now that's definitely not something to scoff at.

Strengths and weaknesses: With only a pair of 2.01m players to back Ivan Yeo up in the paint, it's clear that size will not be one of the Malaysians' strengths. The two players in question - Yoong Jing Kwaan and Tian Yuan Kuek - will have to be rock solid if they harbor any chances of being competitive against the other three teams in this group. Also, only four players are holdovers from the team that played in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, so experience is another factor not in Malaysia's favor.