2011 FIBA-Asia Men's Championships Micro-Preview: Group D

(image from FIBAAsia.net)

After the Jump: Team-by-Team Key Players, Points of Interest and Outlooks for China, the Philippines, UAE, and Bahrain.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Wang Zhizhi
- At 32 years old, "Old Man" Wang is the senior citizen of the bunch, but he is still certainly one of the most reliable. He placed 2nd in scoring (16.7ppg) and rebounding (7.9rpg) for the Chinese in 2009 and should continue to be their main man in the middle this time around. The former NBA journeyman is still good enough to rack up the points on a variety of moves, though he'll have some trouble facing up to Hamed Haddadi if they do meet up. He is still a top-level Asian big, but no longer THE best.
Point of Interest: Crippled crew?
- With the injury to Wang Shipeng and a host of other ailments plaguing his squad, coach Bob Donewald, Jr. will have to work with a Chinese team significantly weaker than previous iterations. Their main core of Wang, Yi Jianlian, Zh Fangyu, Sun Yue and Liu Wei will still be solid, but with a bench largely made up of call-ups from their B Team, don't expect China to romp away to London with no difficulties.
Outlook: Top 4
- The only thing really going for China is the fact they're playing at home. They're no longer the biggest nor fastest team around. They're certainly not the most athletic or even the healthiest. But for all their flaws, the Chinese still have the best chance to derail Iran's Olympic dreams.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Jimmy Alapag
- The last time Jimmy Alapag suited for the Philippine NT was back in the 2007 Tokushima games, when the Pinoys were bracketed in the "Group of Death" with China, Jordan and eventual champions Iran. He probably has something to prove -- that he can hack it in the international level -- and he won't waste anytime to do it. With coach Rajko Toroman's resident starting PG JV Casio nursing a knee injury, Alapag might see the lion's share of minutes and three-point attempts.
Point of Interest: Diamond in the rough?
- Now that naturalized center Marcus Douthit is suiting up, the Pinoys seemingly have the missing piece in their Asian puzzle. What might jam it all up, however, is chemistry, since PBA players Alapag, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo were injected just recently. They certainly add talent and heft, but will it directly translate to a better team? Nevertheless, if Douthit and the pros gel well with the core of Smart-Gilas, then nobody should take the Pinoys for granted.
Outlook: Top 8
- The core of this team placed 3rd in last year's Stankovic Cup, 4th in the Champions Cup, and 3rd in the 2011 Jones Cup. With the pros in tow, can they improve and make the miracle run their countrymen are praying for? The realistic answer might not be promising, but once they get into the knockout stages, then anything can happen.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Rashed Al-Zaabi
- The 6'1" 23 year-old led the Emirates in scoring and rebounding back in 2009 (13.3ppg & 5.0rpg), and should continue being the focal point of their offense in Wuhan. He gave a good, if inconsistent account of himself in the 2011 Jones Cup, though they did finish winless. He's quick, athletic and has good length, so he'll be a tough match-up for most players on the wings.
Point of Interest: The Young and The Restless
- With half the team aged 26 or younger, this Emirates squad is one of the younger ones in the tournament. Despite that, many of the players have had considerable experience for the NT, and it should aid them in Wuhan. They had some moments of brilliance in the Jones Cup, particularly against the Philippines, but, ultimately, they'll need a lot more firepower if they want to advance deep in the competition.
Outlook: Top 12
- China and the Philippines will probably coast past UAE, but the Emirates should edge out their Bahraini neighbors for the last ticket to the second round. A key piece absent from their roster, however, is scorer Talal Al-Nuaimi. If indeed he won't play, then perhaps cracking the Top 12 might be even more difficult than it already is.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Bader Malabes
- The Fil-Bahraini from De La Salle University will make for an interesting subplot in Bahrain's encounter with the Filipinos. How will he fare against former teammate JV Casio and collegiate rivals Chris Tiu and Mark Barroca? Malabes will be charged to fill the role he tried to fill as a Green Archer, which is to be the designated shooter for coach Eric Rashad. Will he make the Pinoys pay, or will he sputter? 
Point of Interest: Where to without Go-to Guy?
- Ahmed Al-Mutawa has been the designated top-scorer for the NT in recent years, but he'll be missing the Wuhan joust. That means there is a sizable void to be filled, but who'll step up? Veterans Ebrahim Al-Darazi and Ahmed Malallah are still in tow, but both are 38 years-old and counting, so their tanks aren't exactly full. 
Outlook: Bottom 4
- Without an apparent go-to guy to bail them out of tough situations, and there will be plenty, it seems the Bahrainis will be in for a rough tournament. They are heavily-favored to lose to both China and the Philippines, and might not be good enough to get past the Emirates, too. 13th to 16th is where they'll probably end up.

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