2012 FIBA-Asia Cup Scouting Report: The Old Guard

Fadi El-Khatib and Samad Nikkhah Bahrami will lock horns
again in the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan.

The biggest continental tournament in this corner of the basketball world will unfold in about a week. This will determine the first three qualifiers in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Men’s Championships, which, in turn, will award the top three finishers with automatic berths in the 2014 FIBA World Championships.

Needless to say, this tournament is going to be big, so your friendly neighborhood Hoop Nut has taken it upon himself to detail some of the personalities to watch for. This is the first in a series of scouting reports aimed at unveiling some of the names we’ll have to remember as the FIBA-Asia Cup unfolds. Some of these names are staples of the FIBA-Asia scene, some are due to break out , while some are rising stars destined to carry their respective countries’ causes in the future.

Let’s begin with the guys who’ve been battling in the FIBA-Asia for quite some time now. These are the veterans. These are the stars who’ve lived and breathed FIBA-Asia for the better part of the past decade. These are the old guard.

The Lebanese Tiger returns to action for the Cedars.

Fadi El—Khatib of Lebanon
Known as the Lebanese Tiger, Fadi missed the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships because he wanted to turn the reigns over to the younger generation of Lebanese cagers. That didn’t turn out to well for the Cedars, who finished outside of the top four and ended up with a losing record (4-5). Fadi returned to action in the 2011 WABA tournament, where he led Lebanon to first place. He missed the 2012 Jones Cup, but should still continue to be the focal point of Coach Ghassan Sarkis’s offense in Tokyo. His return automatically makes the Lebanese one of the title favorites.

Big things are expected from Gabe Norwood of Team Pilipinas.

Gabe Norwood of the Philippines
Prior to 2012, Norwood, the former George Mason University playmaker, already had stints with the Philippine team in 2007 and 2009. He has never experienced winning a title in the international scene until Gilas 2.0’s unexpected title run in the just-concluded Jones Cup. That should raise his confidence as Coach Chot Reyes is looking to him for veteran leadership.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami will carry the bulk of the offense
for the Iranians.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami of Iran
Apart from Fadi, Samad is probably the most gifted and balanced scorer in all of Asia. The 29-year old swingman has been with Iran’s senior national squad since 2003 (if I’m not mistaken), and he has led them to unprecedented levels of success. With Hamed Haddadi and Arsalan Kazemi unable to play for Iran in Tokyo, Coach Memi Becirovic will count on Samad anew to lead Iran’s offense, and to serve as mentor to some of the young guns tapped to eventually inherit his mantle.

Mehdi Kamrani's playmaking will be a big factor for the
success or failure of Iran.

Mehdi Kamrani of Iran
Mehdi is not the biggest name on Iran’s roster, and he’s certainly not the biggest player in terms of stature, but he’s a vital part of the whole Iranian hoops machine. He’s been Iran’s starting PG ever since they rose to prominence in 2007, and the 30-year old’s playmaking and shooting will continue to be important factors in whether Iran will find success or failure in the FIBA-Asia Cup.

Which is which?! The Takeuchi twins of Japan are
poised to dominate the interior.
(image from japantimes.co.jp)

The Takeuchi twins of Japan
Kosuke and Joji Takeuchi have been the bulwarks of Japan’s frontline for the past 6 years. The twins first donned the Rising Sun’s colors in the 2006 FIBA World Championships as a pair of wide-eyed 21-year olds who were simply happy to be playing. They have certainly taken on bigger roles in recent years, although Japan’s standing in the continent’s hoops scene has dipped significantly. Kosuke seems to be the more accomplished of the two, as he was invited to be a part of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2010 Las Vegas Summer Camp roster. The literal twin towers of Japan have to be in their finest form if the home squad wants to gain an automatic qualifying berth for next year.

Tseng Wen-Ting will continue to be a match-up problem
for opposing bigs in Tokyo.

Tseng Wen-Ting of Taiwan
Strangely given the Japanese nickname “The Samurai” by Pinoys, Tseng Wen-Ting has been Taiwan’s top big man ever since the retirement of Wu Chih-Wei from international competitions in the early 2000s. Tseng, now 28 years old, is at the prime of his career and that should serve the Taiwanese in good stead for the next few years. He is one of the most versatile big men in Asia. The Shanghai Shark big man is known as a threat from practically any spot on the floor, and is a deceptively effective one-on-one defender and rebounder.

Can Chen Hsin-An lead the Taiwanese to glory in the
twilight of his career?

Chen Hsin-An of Taiwan
The former Dongguan Leopard and Sacramento King hopeful has had to endure a spate of leg injuries in recent years, but he can still shoot the lights out with the best of Asia. He’s one of a handful of players who has transcended generations in Taiwanese hoops. He played alongside legends Cheng Chich-Lung and Yen Hsin-Shu in the late 90s, and he was the main guy when guys like Tseng, Tien Lei, and Wu Tai-Hao were just getting their bearings in the early 2000s. He might be in the twilight of his international career, but the Pure Youth guard should still be an important piece of the puzzle for Taiwan’s efforts in the FIBA-Asia Cup.

Yaseen Ismail Musa rejoins the Qatari NT after many of
his old teammates were deemed ineligible to play.
Yaseen Musa of Qatar
The iconic poster boy for Qatari basketball missed the 2011 FIBA-Asia tournament, but he has been called back to represent the small Gulf nation in the wake of FIBA’s clamping down on player eligibility. Qatar, known for brazenly parading naturalized African imports as locals, probably reaped what they had sown when their entire starting unit was deemed ineligible in Wuhan last year, but coach Tom Wisman, who coached Japan last year, remains hopeful that the presence of Yaseen should still make them tough for any opposition.

In the second part of this series, we will look at the guys who are poised to break out in the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup.

Unless otherwise specified, image credits belong to Milad Payami and FIBA-Asia.
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1 Comment

Nice post! It further fuels the excitement for this upcoming tournament - hopefully our very own team will do well! I will follow your blog to keep posted ;)

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