23 Rui Hachimura (JPN)
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Top 10 unforgettable moments of Asia basketball in 2018

BEIRUT (FIBA Asia) -  The basketball world's attention continues to turn towards Asia, and with good reason. The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held in China, followed by the 2020 Olympics in Japan. But year 2018 too has been just as significant  for Asian basketball.

The Earth's largest and most populous continent saw big developments across its six sub-zones, right from Syria out west to Japan in the Far East. 

As we gear up for an action packed 2019, we look back at the 10 biggest newsworthy moments of Asian basketball in 2018: 

10 - The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers cast completed

 Whether it is Saudi Arabia, Bahrain from the Gulf, Palestine from West Asia, Sri Lanka from South Asia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia from South East Asia, or Guam from Oceania, lesser known men's teams showed they are ready for the big stage by qualifying to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers. 

9- Lebanon beats China in OT

A West Asian team not named Iran beating the mighty Red Dragons is a headline you don't see very often. But buoyed by playing at home and led by a monster performances from forward Ali Haidar and center Ater Majok, the Cedars outscored the visitors 38-27 through the fourth quarter and OT  to complete the unexpected victory.


8- Syria's qualification to the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers 

 "War ravaged country forced to train in neighboring Lebanon and play all its 'home' games in Beirut makes it to the second round of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers." That's a Cinderalla story unlike any other. This West Asian side is unlikely to progress beyond the second round, but seriously Syria, take a bow for keeping basketball alive in the face of stupendous odds. 

7- Yuan Li's performance in FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship Final final vs Japan

There were questions surrounding China's continued dominance, especially after the addition of powerhouse Oceania team Australia in the Asian competition circuit. But China successfully managed to defend its title at the year ending FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship. The finale result against Japan might have well been different had it not been for point guard Yuan Li's sensational 28 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds. 

6- Kai Sotto

We have been hearing stories of 'Unicorns' coming out of Europe, Africa and North America. 2018 may well go down as the year that witnessed the discovery of Asia's first Unicorn. 7ft 1'' (2.16m) 16-year-old Gilas boy wonder Kai Sotto made heads turn at the FIBA U16 and U18 Asian Championships and was even named in the 20 man senior team roster for the fifth window of the World Cup Asian Qualifiers. 


5- Korea upset Australia at FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2018

 On the flipside of Australia's dominance, also came the loss of the Gems in the FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship earlier this November. Australia's group phase loss to Korea snapped a 19 game win streak in Asian youth competitions stretching back to October 2017. Korea meanwhile, booked their World Cup berth, thanks to the inspiring win!


4- The much-anticipated debut of Rui Hachimura

 After losing all of their first four games, Japan's qualifying campaign was teetering on the edge and it appeared that the Akatsuki Five may well face the humiliation of getting eliminated at the end of the first round itself. But Rui Hachimura had other ideas. Along with center Fazekas, the 20-year-old Gonzaga bulldog has competed with refreshing fearlessness, sparking Japan on a subsequent 4-0 run. The 6ft 8'' (203 cm) athletic wing player has averaged 21.5 points and six boards for the Akatsuki Five.


3- Australia take the U16 and U18 Gold

2017 was the year Australia got its first taste of Asian competition, winning the U16 women's title. 2018 saw the boys teams from 'Down Under' get their maiden set of silverware- sweeping the U16 and U18 titles.


2- Kazakhstan shock Philippines in Manila

The Steppe Wolves went into the fifth window needing a win to salvage their World Cup Qualifying campaign. The odds were stacked against them, especially considering they were up against a passionate Gilas Pilipinas side in their own backyard. But the Kazakhs stepped up to deliver an exciting 92-88 knockout punch, giving us basketball fans an all new spin to the iconic phrase 'Thrilla in Manila'.


1- Japan stun Australia in Tokyo! 

Akatsuki Five fans are already calling it one of the biggest wins ever in Japanese basketball. On June 29th, Japan sprung what we had called "an upset of the ages" by consigning the Boomers to their only loss of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Apart from being the only time Japan men have beaten Australia in international competition, the result also sparked a subsequent 5-0 run that has put the 2020 Olympics host nation in prime position towards securing its first World Cup berth since 2006.