2012 FIBA-Asia Cup Scouting Report: The Breakout Boys

Jet Chang and Jeff Chan are set to have breakout performances
in the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan.
(composite image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)

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.

In the first post in this series, we took a look at some grizzled veterans tagged to continue leading their respective teams. Now we’ll talk about some of the in-betweeners, the guys who are not yet too old, but not quite so raw. These are the guys who might inherit the leadership roles and scoring cudgels as early as this year. These aren’t the guys who are up-and-coming, these are the guys who should break out now.

Rodrigue Akl might already be one of the top
playmakers in Asia.
(image from sports.163.com)
Rodrigue Akl of Lebanon
The 24-year old Akl is set to be the Cedars’ top PG for maybe the next 5 or 6 years. His international experience includes playing in the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships and in the last two FIBA-Asia Men’s Tournaments. He was also part of the Lebanese squad that captured gold in the 2010 FIBA-Asia Stankovic Cup in Beirut. In the Jones Cup, Akl was the overall assists leader. He was also top 3 in steals per game. He will probably start at the backcourt for Coach Ghassan Sarkis alongside the seemingly immortal Fadi El-Khatib.

SMART-Gilas will need Jeff Chan's pure
stroke if they want to keep on winning.
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/InterAKTV)
Jeff Chan of the Philippines
The Finals MVP of the 2012 PBA Governors’ Cup played really well in his first stint as a member of the Philippine NT at the senior level. His stroke is reminiscent of legendary Asian sharp-shooter Allan Caidic, and the Pinoys will need Chan to be at least nearly as accurate as Caidic if they want to finish in the top three in Tokyo. The 29-year old Rain or Shine Elasto-Painter helped SMART-Gilas top the just-concluded Jones Cup, placing second on the team in scoring at 11.6ppg. What’s more promising, though, is that his 46.8% 3-point shooting was good for third overall.

LA Tenorio will play a vital role in the fortunes
of the Filipinos in Tokyo.
(image from basketball-tpe.org)
LA Tenorio of the Philippines
Adjudged the MVP of the 2012 Jones Cup, Tenorio was Team Pilipinas’s top playmaker, scoring 8.8 points, dishing out nearly 3 assists, and shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc. The former Alaska Ace (he was just traded to the Bgy. Ginebra Kings) had a slow start in the tournament, but he picked up the pace in the Filipinos’ last three wins against Iran, Taiwan, and the USA. With Meralco Bolt Sol Mercado deemed ineligible to play as a local by FIBA-Asia, Tenorio will be the only natural PG for Coach Chot Reyes in Tokyo. Gabe Norwood and Jared Dillinger might alternate with him at that spot, but it’s imperative that Tenorio continue his stellar play for the Gilas 2.0 squad to continue their successful run.

Yu Shulong's experience at the senior level will be a big
factor for the young Chinese.
(image by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Yu Shulong of China
Yu Shulong played for Team China in the 2012 London Basketball Invitational. The 6’1” playmaker, who is a member of the Jilin Tigers in the CBA, first played for the senior Chinese team in the 2010 World Championships as a spry 20-year old, but he will now be considered one of the more experienced players for Coach Fan Bin. He is good enough to start at PG, where he will partner with wunderkind Guo Ailun to call the shots and make the plays for the relatively young Chinese quintet.

Oshin Sahakian (R) will be pne of the pillars of strength
for Team Iran down low.
(image from sulekha.com)
Oshin Sahakian of Iran
The 26-year old big man who plays for Zob Ahan in the Iranian Super League first donned the senior men’s colors in the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championships, where Iran nabbed its first continental title. With the absence of Iran’s starting frontline (Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies and Arsalan Kazemi of Rice University), Sahakian will be tagged to partner with veteran Asghar Kardoust to man the interior. He did pretty well in the 2012 Jones Cup, averaging 7.3 points and 10 rebounds while playing for about 34 minutes an outing.

The Nippon squad will rely on Kosuke Kanamaru's
sniping in the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup.
(image from the Japanese Basketball League)
Kosuke Kanamaru of Japan
Kanamaru is a potential match-up nightmare in the backcourt and at the wings. The 6’4” shooting guard/small forward has good handles and an even better stroke from long range. The 23-year old rookie for the Panasonic Trians normed 8.3 points in just 15 minutes per game for Japan in the Jones Cup, while shooting 33% from rainbow land. Because both NT mainstays Takumi Ishizaki and Takuya Kawamura will, reportedly, be absent in Tokyo, Kanamaru should play a bigger role alongside veteran playmaker Ryota Sakurai.

Takatoshi Furukawa is a speedy guard
who can wreak havoc in transition.
(image from aisin.com)
Takatoshi Furukawa of Japan
With Aisin Seahorses head coach Kimikazu Suzuki calling the shots for Japan, it’s no wonder he tapped one of his main guns, Takatoshi Furukawa, to be one of his FIBA Asia Cup snipers. Furukawa plays essentially the same positions as Kanamaru, and both will probably alternate at the wings. Both are also good shooters, with Furukawa connecting on nearly 40% of his 3-point tries in the Jones Cup. His familiarity with Coach Suzuki’s system as well as teammate JR Sakuragi and former Aisin Seahorse Kosuke Takeuchi might also mean he’ll be given more playing time in Tokyo.

Jet Chang's scoring will be big for
the Taiwanese.
(image from sports.163.com)
Jet Chang of Taiwan
The former BYU-Hawaii standout is tagged to be the next big superstar for Chinese Taipei. He led Taiwan’s scoring in the Jones Cup with 13.0ppg, while also giving a good account of himself in the 2011 FIBA-Asia tournament in Wuhan, China. The 6’4” 25-year old is just approaching his prime, and he will be a beast in the very near future. His specialty is scoring in transition and through penetration, but he has also improved his long range shooting (33% from beyond the arc in the Jones Cup).

Hareesh Koroth is a dangerous shooter
and speedster from India.
(image from hoopistani.com)
Hareesh Koroth of India
Consider Koroth’s numbers in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Tournament in Wuhan – 15.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 42% from three, and 53% from the field. This guy can just score at will. Despite being undersized at the two-guard spot (he’s just 6’1”), Koroth’s speed and shooting might spell trouble for some of the opposition he’s going to face in Tokyo. Now consider this, too – India lost to Lebanon in Wuhan by just three points, 68-71. In that game, Koroth hit 4 treys on his way to 20 big points. If he can produce something similar in the FIBA Asia Cup, then anything can happen.

Khalid Suliman Abdi's versatility will be
a big asset for the Qataris.
(image from fiba.com)
Khalid Suliman Abdi of Qatar
Tanguy Ngombo, Ousseynou N’Diaye, Mansour El-Hadary, Hassan Mohamed, and Mame Souleye Ndour were all declared ineligible in the 2011 FIBA-Asia. That was an awful time for Qatar, but they probably reaped what they had sown. They’ve been known to naturalize African players willy-nilly, and they paid for it dearly last year. The silver lining, however, is new guys from their young set can rise up to the challenge. One of the most promising is Khalid, a 25-year old do-it-all 6’6” wingman. With Qatari legend Yaseen Ismail Musa already on the wrong side of 30, Coach Tom Wisman will count on Khalid to provide a lot of scoring and playmaking.

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