to read

Women in Asia basketball continue to shine in 2022

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - The year of 2022 was a big one for women’s basketball, as evident by the results in broadcast, digital and attendance at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022. The fans of women’s basketball were happy to see the stars elevate their games and put on a performance for the ages in Sydney.

Such was also the case in Asia, where the women in basketball have been shining brighter and brighter as each year goes by.

The rise

The trend started late in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics when hosts Japan broke through all the way to the gold medal game. On a historic run by inspirational point guard Rui Machida, Japan became the first national team from Asia to challenge USA for an Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball in almost 20 years.

This year, another Asian national team challenged USA for supremacy at a global stage, the Women’s World Cup. While Japan put in their best efforts to get another shot at the USA, it was instead China who made a memorable trip to the title game in Sydney.

China have always been among one of the top teams in the world, but had been slightly overshadowed in the recent years by the performance of Japan’s rise in women’s basketball. Whether it was Japan’s aforementioned Olympic silver medal last year or the five consecutive FIBA Women’s Asia Cup titles (with 3 coming at the expense of China’s losses), it seemed as if there had been a bit more optimism leaning towards Japan recently.

In reality, China was always right there along with Japan at the top. Even though they hadn’t been to the Semi-Finals of the Women’s World Cup since 1994 prior to this year’s run to the Final, China were coming off two straight trips to the Quarter-Finals where they ended up at sixth in the Final Standings each time. And even though they had lost to Japan in the Women’s Asia Cup Final in both 2019 and 2021, both were single digit margins in games that were only decided in the final plays of the game.

So while Japan were indeed winning those Women’s Asia Cup titles and winning Olympic medals, China were right behind them, waiting for their turn.

China’s challenge

Their turn finally came in Australia, exactly 18 years after they had last celebrated being on the Women’s World Cup podium in the exact same country.

Whether it was the solid veteran roles of Li Meng, Huang Sijing, and Wang Siyu as well as the young prodigies filling into their roles as stars of the team in Han Xu and Li Yueru, everything seemed to start falling into place for China. They left no room for doubt while dominating their way through the Group Phase, beating all opponents except for USA by at least 26 points.

The crescendo of China’s rise in 2022 was in the Semi-Finals as they faced Women’s World Cup host Australia in front of a jam-packed crowd of 145,000 spectators, the highest attendance ever at the competition. In an exciting back and forth game between the two evenly matched teams, China emerged victorious 61-59 to claim the tickets to the championship game.

When all was said and done, after a spirited attempt to challenge USA for gold, China ended up with the silver medal. This was also enough to propel them five spots upwards to second in the latest update of the FIBA World Ranking Women.

And another one…

China’s silver medal finish commanded the attention of the fans for women’s basketball in Asia at the main event this year, but they weren’t the only ones to put on a show.

Aside from that, another outstanding display of skill from the women in Asia basketball was put on Kang LeeSeul. Korea’s star forward was among one of the best scorers in the entire competition, averaging 17.2 points (third among all players) per game on 41.7 percent field-goal shooting, 39.6 percent three-point shooting, and 100 percent free-throw shooting.

Her marquee performance was against Bosnia and Herzegovina where she lit up the defense for 37 points on 7 three-pointers to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists, which compiled up for an EFF rating of 44 - marking the highest ever EFF recorded at the Women’s World Cup.

What’s next?

The women of Asia basketball have been putting on a show for the fans over the past two years. And from what we’ve all been able to witness, it’s only fair to be excited for what is up ahead.

Will the likes of China and Japan build on from what they’ve accomplished in these past two major competitions and continue to bring the challenge to USA? Will it be enough to eventually spring an upset at some point down the road?

Will the performances of Rui Machida, Han Xu, Li Meng, and Kang LeeSeul among others that shined at the global stage inspire the younger generation of stars to follow their footsteps?

These are all questions that can only be answered when the time comes, but in the meanwhile, it’s all encouraging to have witnessed the rise of the women in Asia basketball in 2022.