2012 FIBA-Asia Cup Scouting Report: The Naturalizers

Marcus Douthit leads a cast of impressive naturalized players
in the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup.
(image from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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 part of this series, we looked at the grizzled veterans, in the second part, we discussed the guys poised to breakout big time, and in the third part, we saw some of the really young guns. In this fourth and last part of the series, I will be writing about the four naturalized players who will make their mark in Tokyo. These are guys who, by FIBA’s standards, are not counted as locals or local-born, but are players who have earned the right to represent their respective “adopted” countries through the process of naturalization. By casual definition, these guys are imports, but some of them have actually imbibed the local culture deep enough that, by all intents and purposes, they have transcended that label of being “naturalized.”

Douthit will have to be at his best for SMART-Gilas to duplicate its
title run in the 2012 Jones Cup.
(image from basketball-tpe.org)

Marcus Douthit of the Philippines
Douthit has been a mainstay of the SMART-Gilas program since 2010, and he has been a pillar of strength for the Philippines underneath. Not since Marlou Aquino’s stint in the 1998 Centennial Team and Asi Taulava’s best outing in the 2002 Asian Games has the Philippine NT seen a dominant low post force, and they will need every bit of Douthit’s imposing presence for a coveted top 3 finish in Tokyo. He averaged 16.9ppg, 10.9rpg, and 1.4bpg in the recent 2012 Jones Cup, helping the Philippines to its first taste of international gold at this level in a LONG time. He’ll need to produce at a consistent rate for Coach Chot Reyes’s team to really fulfill its potential. His age, however, (Douthit is in his early 30s) is a big concern.

Garnett Thompson will give Lebanon's
foes some headaches.
(image from sportkello.com)
Garnett Thompson of Lebanon
Like Douthit, Thompson isn’t exactly a spring chicken – he’s 32 years old – but, at least based on his recent highlights, he can still get up and down the court and jump as if he was still in his mid-20s. This lefty can also shoot the three, which should extend the opposing defense a bit. He’s about a couple of inches short than Douthit, but it seems he’ll make up for it with a bit more mobility. He’ll probably partner with beanpole Charles Tabet up front for Coach Ghassan Sarkis. He normed 17.6ppg, 11.0rpg, and 1.5bpg in his latest stint for Champville in the Lebanese pro league.

JR Sakuragi returns to don the Japanese
colors in Tokyo.
(image from the Japan Times)
JR Sakuragi of Japan
The former UCLA Bruin has been Japan’s resident naturalized player since 2007, but he missed both the 2009 and 2011 FIBA-Asia jousts as the Takeuchi twins took control of Japan’s frontline. He was reinserted into the NT primarily since the new national Head Coach, Kimikazu Suzuki, is his own coach for the Aisin Seahorses. His age is a big concern (Sakuragi is 36 years of age), but if his recent stats are proof of anything (17.4ppg, 11.8rpg, and 52.6 FG%), it’s that he can still compete with the best of ‘em.

NBA journeyman Trey Johnson is the latest in Qatar's
line of naturalized players.
(image from NBA.com)
Trey Johnson of Qatar
At just 6’5” and being just 28 years old, Johnson is the outlier of this bunch of naturalized players. The former NBA journeyman last played for the New Orleans Hornets. He played in 11 games, averaging just 1.9ppg in 5.5 minutes of action per contest. He’ll be the new resident playmaker and main wing threat for Coach Tom Wisman as former star Targuy Nombo won’t be around (he was deemed ineligible in last year’s FIBA-Asia joust). Johnson will be a headache for opposing guards, but even his presence might not be enough to lift the talent-starved Qatar quintet into the top 3 of the FIBA-Asia Cup.

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