23 September, 2015
03 October
Ali Mahmoud (LIB)
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Ali Mahmoud upbeat about Lebanon's chances

BEIRUT (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - If one thinks of Lebanese basketball and all the thrilling games that the national team has played in over the years, there's a good chance that Ali Mahmoud will spring to mind.

A player who's always had a knack for making an important shot or coming up with a key defensive play, Mahmoud shot to prominence when he suited up for the Lebanese at the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Japan.

The following year at the FIBA Asia Championship, the 1.83m guard nearly helped his side book a place in the Beijing Games but he missed the Final through injury and Lebanon fell to Iran, 74-69.

Mahmoud is hoping that this summer, Lebanon will be able to take the next step at Asia's flagship event in Changsha, China, and clinch a spot at the 2016 Olympics.

"For sure our goal is Rio," he said to FIBA.com.

We never reached the Olympics and got really close a few years back. - Mahmoud

"Not many athletes can say they played in the Olympics.

"Also, who wouldn't want to go to Brazil regardless?"

Lebanon, whose federation was suspended and could not play at the 2013 Asia Championship, got off on the right foot under their new coach, Veselin Matic, several weeks ago when they travelled to Jordan for the WABA Championship and finished first.

Lebanon, second-place Jordan and third-place Palestine claimed berths at the FIBA Asia Championship, which will be staged in Changsha, China, from 23 September-3 October.

Matic's squad got the results it needed in Amman, despite not having much time to prepare.

Mahmoud says the unbeaten run at the WABA Championship owed to a couple things.

"I would say two reasons," he said.

"Heart, which has been the main reason for our success over the years.

"And second, Fadi [El Khatib] was unstoppable in WABA.

"It's hard to lose when he's dropping mid-30's [points] in games."

The WABA victories gave Matic a dream start at the helm.

He's [Matic] a very nice guy and passionate about the game. - Mahmoud

"So far, he's undefeated so, you can't ask for a better start," the 32-year-old said.

Mahmoud thinks Lebanon's style of play at WABA paid dividends.

"We pushed the ball well for fast breaks and played hard defense," he said.

"I think defense is the big key to having a successful championship."

Lebanon went unbeaten and what made their showing all the more impressive was that there were some good teams.

"I actually was impressed," he said.

"Palestine got a lot better over the years and Jordan was very good, despite missing key players."

Mahmoud has a very clear understanding of how he can help his team win games in international basketball.

"I would say I am vocal when I need to be vocal," he said.

"Sometimes after a mistake, a positive remark can go a long way.

"My role has always been to do what ever the team needs to win whether its offense or defense."

This is an important year for Mahmoud in his international career.

Lebanon are looking to reestablish themselves as a leading nation in Asia and to also reach the Olympics.

Mahmoud does not take the responsibility of wearing the Lebanon shirt lightly.

"It's always an honor to represent your country in anything and luckily, I have been blessed to do so for many years," he said.

Just how much longer he does run onto the court for the Lebanese remains to be seen, though.

"At this age in my career, I prefer to use my summers to get healthy after a long season and spend time with my family," he said.

He is fully onboard for the immediate challenge of competing in Changsha, though, and is hopeful that Lebanon will achieve their aims.

"I believe team chemistry and playing together will bring success," he said.

"All the other small details come with practice and time."