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 LEBANON (LIB) 
2nd appearance (2 consecutive)

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Solid as cedar trees

Lebanon is back at the World Championship after their first appearance in 2002. Other than the starting five, the squad has been rejuvenated, and the mission of head coach Paul Coughter and his team will be to win as many games as possible.

Lebanon had to wait until the 21st century to see the emergence of their basketball National Team. They participated at the Asian Championship for the first time in 1999, in Fukuoka, and claimed a decent seventh place. Two years later in Shanghai, they reached the final of the competition but lost to China 97-63. But with the second place finish, they qualified for the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, their first ever major international competition.

The players from the country of cedar suffered from their lack of international experience, losing all five of their games to Brazil, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Canada and Algeria, finishing dead last place of 16 teams at the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis. The squad already featured scoring machine Fadi El Khatib, American-born center Joe Vogel, solid power forward Paul Khoury and then 21-year-old point guard Rony Fahed. Elie Mechantaf was also one of the leaders, but he retired from the National Team the following year. In 2003, the Lebanese National Team was missing its best player, Fadi El Khatib, at the Asian Championship in Harbin and finished at the fourth place, failing to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Paul Coughter took the reins of the National Team in 2005 to prepare for the 2005 FIBA Asia Championship in Doha and try to qualify for the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan. He decided to rejuvenate the squad and rebuild it around the core of 2002 World Championship veterans El Khatib, Vogel, Khoury and Fahed, as well as American-born combo forward Brian Beshara. Coughter then added young and promising players to the mix such as swingman Jean Abdel-Nour, power forward Hussein Tawbe, point guards Ali Mahmoud and Omar Turk, combo-forward Bassem Balaa, power forward Ali Fakhreddine and shooting guard Sabah Khoury. Lebanon lost only two games - both to China - and claimed the silver medal at the 2005 FIBA Asia Championship, qualifying for their second straight World Championship.

For a number of years, Lebanon basketball could be broken down in two words, Rony Seikaly. The center became the first Lebanese to play in the NBA in 1988. But he played neither in the Lebanese league nor for the Lebanese National Team. The country of cedar has since developed a very competitive league which is now considered among the best in Asia. That’s one of the reasons why the entire National Team is playing in the domestic league. And most of them play for the four most powerful clubs: Blue Stars, Champville, Sagesse Beirut and Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut - the latter two of which have claimed the last nine titles.

For the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Paul Coughter will likely build a team very similar to the one which claimed the silver medal at the 2005 FIBA Asia Championship. El Khatib will be the leader of the squad. He is the Lebanese basketball superstar and was expected to become the second Lebanese to play in the NBA after Seikaly. But he has not been signed after several try-outs. El Khatib is a great offensive weapon as he is very hard to stop one-on-one, able to penetrate to the basket or shoot from three-point range. American-born Vogel is also very appreciated in his adoptive country after winning the national title in 2005 and 2006 with Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut. He is very solid at both ends of the court and can definitely play on the international level. Point guard Fahed has matured his game since the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis where he was a reserve. Fahed is now a very reliable point guard with a feared three-point shot. Khoury may be 38 years old, but he is still battling in the paint to grab rebounds and block shots. Brian Beshara is a very talented and versatile combo-forward who was born in the United States and has played in Lebanon for five years. He is a very valuable addition to the starting five for Paul Coughter.

But the issue for the National Team head coach will definitely be the inexperience of the bench. None of the youth players have played in a major international competition other than one or two Asian Championships. But most of them are very talented. Sabah Khoury may be the sixth man of the team after displaying with Champville this season that he is a very good scorer besides helping his team-mates by grabbing rebounds or dishing passes.
Lebanon will try to improve their finish from 2002 and avoid last place. They were placed in a very tough Group A along with defending World Champion Serbia & Montenegro, 2004 Olympic gold medallists Argentina and EuroBasket 2005 bronze medal-winning France. With those three teams more or less out of reach, Lebanon's hopes of reaching the Round of 16 lay in beating the other teams in Group A, Nigeria and Venezuela - both experienced teams featuring very talented players.

ACHIEVEMENTS IN FIBA COMPETITION
 Season   Competition   Placement 
2007 FIBA Asia Championship for Men 2nd place 
PARTICIPATION IN FIBA COMPETITION
 Season   Competition   Last Achieved Round 
2002 World Championship for Men Classification Round (13-16)
2006 FIBA World Championship Preliminary Round
2007 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men Classification
2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men Preliminary Round
2009 FIBA Asia Championship for Men Finals
2010 FIBA World Championship Preliminary Round
2011 FIBA Asia Championship Classification (5-8)
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