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FIBA Asia 2018 Yearend Awards Part One
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) – Let's talk about the best - the best of 2018 in Asian basketball, and to kick things off in my two-part column year-ender, here's the FIBA Asia 2018 Yearend Awards Part One.
For this first part, I'll focus on skill or stats-based citations and limit the choices to players who saw action at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.
Top-Scorer of the Year
Ra GunA (Korea) - 27.1 points per game.
There really is nobody who comes close. The second-leading scorer for the entire Asian Qualifiers is Jordan's Dar Tucker, but he scores 7 points less per game than Ra, who has been on a beastly tear for Korea. Since debuting for the Koreans early in 2018, the long-time Korean Basketball League (KBL) foreign player has been carrying the national team to one win after another. With Ra anchoring the middle, Korea have amassed 7 wins in 8 games, and he has just been practically unstoppable when operating around the basket.
Executive of the Boards
Ra GunA (Korea) - 12.8 rebounds per game.
I'm going to write about the same guy from above, and please don't get tired of it because this won't be the last time, too. There you go - spoiler alert. But the fact that Ra is not only the best scorer but also the best rebounder this year in FIBA Asia is a testament to how incredible his production has been for Korea. He is, quite literally, the biggest reason why the Koreans have been among the elite teams in the Asian Qualifiers and why they have already qualified for the World Cup ahead of other top tier Asian teams like the Philippines, Japan, Iran and Lebanon.
Playmaker of the Year
Shea Ili (New Zealand) - 5.6 assists per game.
To be quite honest, I had two choices here - Ili or Iran's Samad Nikkhah Bahrami. The latter is a sentimental favorite of mine as I've watched him play since 2007, but I have to give credit to Ili, who has seen action in nearly twice as many games while still sustaining his playmaking brilliance. One also has to love how Ili's nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is really impressive and how it underscores his tremendous efficiency as one of the Tall Blacks' main floor generals. He ain't flashy, but he surely gets the job done.
The Glove Award
Sajjad Mashayekhi (Iran) - 2.2 steals per game.
Mashayekhi is the epitome of "small but terrible." At just 6ft 0in (1.83m), he definitely won't be the most imposing player in any court, but his quickness, shiftiness and ability to pick the pockets of his opponents make him such a dangerous foe. Throughout the year, the 24-year-old has had 4 games with 3 steals each, which truly emphasize how he is a vulture in the passing lanes and how he's one of the peskiest on-ball defenders in the continent.
Not In My House Award
Ater Majok (Lebanon) - 2.2 blocks per game.
Consistency is what gets Majok this citation. Yes, Syrian giant Abdulawahab Al-Hamwi actually averages slightly more blocks per game across the entire Asian Qualifiers, but Majok has been much better in 2018. The naturalized Lebanese center has also blocked at least 2 shots per game this year, while Al-Hamwi has had a couple of matches with no rejections. If Lebanon still manage to make it to the World Cup, Majok's impeccable timing in sending shots back to the front row will be one major factor.
Lee JungHyun (Korea) - 3.2 triples per game, 32 triples total.
New Zealand's Jordan Ngatai and Lebanon's Amir Saoud are tempting choices for this award, but Lee trumps them both in total three-pointers made and consistency. It helps, too, that Lee has seen action in each of Korea's games not just this year but in the entire Asian Qualifiers. It's amazing, too, how Lee has sunk 3 triples in 7 of Korea's 8 Asian Qualifiers games this year. Splash!!!
Mr. Efficiency 2018
Ra GunA (Korea)
No surprises here, yes? He leads the entire competition in scoring, rebounding, field goal shooting and double-doubles while also helping Korea be among the early FIBA Asia entrants to next year's World Cup. Even if he's played for Korea in the span of fewer than 12 months, Ra is already making an excellent case as one of the best naturalized players to ever see action in FIBA Asia.
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