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JH Lee, Wang Zhelin, Guo, Abo Jalas top youngsters at 2013 Asia Championship

REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - The 2013 FIBA Asia Championship is complete and three more teams qualified for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in champions Iran, silver medalists Philippines and third placed side Korea. Of course the defeat of China by Chinese Taipei in the quarter-finals was huge news – kicking China out of the World Cup (unless they go for a wild card). But the world did get a glimpse of a couple of future stars in Asia at the tournament. In fact, nearly every team in Manila had at least one promising youngster.

Of the four semi-finalists, Korea was the only team to really include young players on their team. Korea’s main core was beginning to age a bit and coach Yoo Jae Hak made sure to bring some of the country’s top youngsters into the senior squad this summer.

Lee Jong Hyun is one of the country’s biggest talents and the 19-year-old center showed he’s ready for the top level, averaging 7.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 58 per cent from the field.

The 19-year-old Choi Jun Yong and 20-year-old Moon Seong Gon meanwhile were both parked further down the Korean bench – though Choi collected 13 points, three assists and two blocks in a blowout of India.

Playing alongside low post veterans Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian was an invaluable experience for China’s 19-year-old star prospect Wang Zhelin. And the youngster showed he can dominate lower-level competition, averaging 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds against Malaysia, India and Bahrain. But Zhelin, appearing in his first senior Asia Championship, was less of a factor against the bigger teams, with 6.7 points and three rebounds against Iran, Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei. All told, he averaged 10.2 points and six rebounds per game.

The same could be said for China’s 19-year-old guard Guo Ailun, who averaged 14.3 points in those games against Malaysia, India and Bahrain and then picked up 21 points and five assists in the fifth place game against Qatar – finishing overall with 8.1 points, 2.3 assists and 1.6 rebounds.

Seventh-placed Jordan used 2.10 center Ahmad Hekmat Aldwairi in a reserve role and the 20-year-old big man did a solid job with 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in about 10 minutes of action, including 10 points and three rebounds against Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan reached the quarter-finals – and eventually finished eighth place – and a trio of youngsters played a big role. The 21-year-old Rustam Murzagaliyev did a good job moving the ball in the team’s system while 20-year-old forward Vitaliy Lapchenko was a strong rebounder. The 19-year-old power forward Alexander Zhigulin showed flashes of promise after having spent the last three seasons in the Barcelona youth ranks.

Japan just missed out on reaching the quarter-finals but the ninth-placed finishers did get a brief glimpse of 18-year-old small forward Yuta Watanbe, who appeared in garbage time in three games before scoring 13 points in a placement game against Hong Kong.
Hong Kong finished the tournament in 10th place but 21-year-old shooting guard Chan Siu Wing displayed some excellent shooting ability, hitting five triples against Qatar and four against Philippines in averaging 7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists over the tournament.

India achieved their initial goal of reaching the second round – by beating Thailand – but there wasn’t much more for Scott Flemming’s team, whose average age was 23 years of age. This tournament was about the future for 11th-placed India, who had eight players 22 years or under with the 2.18m 17-year-old giant Satnam Singh Bhamara being the most intriguing player. The much-discussed 17-year-old played solidly in his second appearance for India, averaging 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in just six minutes per game over six contests.

Bahrain, who ended in 12th place, did not create many positive results but they did get a chance to show off 19-year-old Subah Azzam, whose top game came against China as he collected 13 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Nassir Abo Jalas meanwhile has been a star for Saudi Arabia’s teams at Asia’s youth championships for years, and the 19-year-old forward held his own at times against senior level competition in averaging 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in helping Saudi Arabia take 13th place.

Thailand’s 19-year-old undersized center Anasawee Klaewnarong collected 10 points and 2.8 rebounds while Malaysia’s 18-year-old guard Lok San Mak gained some valuable experience in averaging 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in about eight minutes a contest.

David Hein


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