All Roads Lead to Manila: Gilas Entry #13 – Checking Out the Competition Part 1

With a little more than a month to go before the start of the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships here in Manila, I believe it’s ripe for us to take a look at how most of the competing teams have been prepping for such a monumental contest. I will be detailing what each team has done so far and will be predicting who will probably make the final roster (12 names) for each team.

Oshin Sahakian and the Iranians are gearing up for
FIBA Asia 2013.
(image from

*In Part 1, we will look at the contenders from West and Central Asia – Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, and Kazakhstan.

West Asia Teams:
IRAN – Team Melli had most of its big names in tow when it went to Istanbul, Turkey for a nine-day training camp just recently. They had some top-flight competition there, too. They played against Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, and Turkey. From a raw 26-man pool that started training in Tehran, only 15 were brought to Turkey for the tune-up matches and this will be trimmed even further for the Jones Cup and eventually for FIBA Asia. My projected final roster for Iran is:

C - Hamed Haddadi                       - 7’2 – 28 y.o.
F – Arsalan Kazemi                         - 6’7 – 23 y.o.
-- will reportedly follow to the Jones Cup after the NBA Draft
F – Samad Nikkhah Bahrami       - 6’7’ – 30 y.o.
G – Hamed Afagh                            - 6’5 – 30 y.o.
G – Mahdi Kamrani                         - 6’1 – 31 y.o.
C – Asghar Kardoust                      - 7’0 – 27 y.o.
F – Oshin Sahakian                        - 6’7 – 27 y.o.
F – Saeid Davarpanah                   - 6’3 – 26 y.o.
G – Javad Davari                             - 6’1 – 30 y.o.
G – Aren Davoudi                            - 6’0 – 27 y.o.
C – Rouzbeh Arghavan                  - 7’1 – 25 y.o.
F – Mohammad Jamshidi             - 6’7 – 22 y.o.

Coach: Memi Becirovic

Arsalan Kazemi is set to return to the Iranian NT after
the 2013 NBA Draft.
(image from

Almost everyone on that list played for Iran in the 2011 tourney, with the exception of Arghavan and Jamshidi. Arghavan bloomed this past season for Petrochimi and I see him getting the nod over other bigs like Amir Sedighi and Saleh Foroutan, both of whom are a little too young and raw. A sleeper choice, however, could be Soren Derboghosian, who plays for UCLA in the US NCAA, or even veteran Hamed Sohrabnejad, who also plays for Petrochimi, but is already pushing 30. Jamshidi is a lock, I think, especially after playing so well in the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup. Many are counting on him to inherit the mantle of leadership from Bahrami in the near future.

LEBANON – The Cedars are not exactly in training mode just yet. Things are really crazy in Beirut right now, so much so that they postponed canceled their pro league playoffs, they just found a willing benefactor to fund the national team, and they are grappling with the possibility of several key players not making the Manila tournament. I mean, they haven’t even started formal practices yet. Coach Ghassan Sarkis has had his share of detractors, too, with one rumor circulating about how Lebanese-Australian big man Julian Khazzouh won’t even consider playing for Lebanon if Sarkis continues to be the coach. Another thing to consider is the status of the seemingly immortal Fadi El-Khatib. Early reports suggest he might not make the Manila joust because of some family/personal issues, but my insider recently tweeted to me that the Lebanese Tiger will, in fact, join the team around the time of the Jones Cup. My projected final roster (I will be counting Khazzouh and El-Khatib in this one) is:

C – Loren Woods                            - 7’2 – 35 y.o.
-- new naturalized player after San Hoskin, Garnett Thompson, and Reyshawn Terry
F – Ali Haidar                                    - 6’7 – 23 y.o.
F – Fadi El-Khatib                            - 6’7 – 34 y.o.
G – Amir Saoud                               - 6’2 – 22 y.o.
G – Ali Mahmoud                             - 6’1 – 30 y.o.
C – Julian Khazzouh                       - 6’10 – 27 y.o.
F/C – Ali Kanaan                              - 6’10 – 27 y.o.
F – Jean Abdel Nour                       - 6’6 – 30 y.o.
G – Elie Stephan                             - 6’3 – 27 y.o.
G – Rodrigue Akl                             - 6’2 – 25 y.o.
C – Roy Samaha                             - 6’9 – 29 y.o.
G – Elias Rustom                            - 6’6 – 26 y.o.

Coach: Ghassan Sarkis

Fadi El-Khatib is set to return to the Cedars
for the Jones Cup.
(image from

It is worth noting that a couple of marquee young guys won’t be able to make it to Manila due to injuries. These are 6’8 24-year old Bassel Bawji, who had a banner year for Moutahed in the FLB, and 6’6 21-year old Ahmad Ibrahim, who is seen as the heir apparent to El-Khatib. In the event that Khazzouh doesn’t make it, then perhaps 6’7 PF Bachi Ammouri (Moutahed) can take his place. I believe this might be El-Khatib’s last FIBA Asia campaign, and I am sure he wants to end on a bright note. In the now unlikely event El-Khatib won’t make the roster, his Champville teammate, 6’4 Nadim Souaid, should be the clear replacement.

JORDAN – Al Nashama is in high spirits after primary playmaker Sam Daghlas confirmed his participation in the training pool and in the national team. This after Daghlas released a statement earlier in the year that he was retiring from international play, or at least skipping it in 2013. It is a welcome piece of news for Jordan, since the status of star forward Zaid Abbas is still not certain (although my insiders say he is leaning towards joining the team after all) and the exodus of many veterans (Ayman Idais, Zaid Al-Khas, Islam Abbas, and Enver Soobzokov to name a few) have left the 2011 runner-up squad with just a shadow of its former self. Add to that the fact that the Jordanian basketball big wigs no longer tapped the services of long-time reinforcement Rasheim Wright and the talks to acquire super scorer Andre Emmett fell through, and we have a Jordanian quintet that is not exactly in its prime form. The addition of Jimmy Baxter as (hopefully) Jordan’s real and final naturalized player should give a semblance of stability, and their training game result against Algeria (a narrow 58-52 loss) is promising. My projected final roster (I will be counting Abbas and Daghlas in this one) is:

C – Mohammad Shaher Hussein   - 6’11 – 23 y.o.
F – Zaid Abbas                                 - 6’8 – 30 y.o.
F – Jimmy Baxter                             - 6’6 – 33 y.o.
G – Wesam Al-Sous                       - 6’0 – 30 y.o.
G – Sam Daghlas                           - 6’6 – 34 y.o.
C/F – Ali Jamal Zaghab                  - 6’9 – 25 y.o.
F/C – Abdullah Abu Quora             - 6’8 – 29 y.o.
F – Mohammad Hadrab                 - 6’7 – 29 y.o.
G – Mousa Al-Awadi                        - 6’2 – 28 y.o.
G – Fadel Al-Najjar                          - 6’4 – 28 y.o.
C – Ahman Al-Dwairi                      - 6’11 – 20 y.o.
F – Ahmed Al-Hamarsheh             - 6’7 – 27 y.o.

Coach: Vangelis Alexandris

Much of Jordan's hopes rest on whether Zaid Abbas
will return or not.
(image from

Of those 12 names, only six played in the 2011 FIBA Asia tourney in Wuhan, China. And of those six, Shaher Hussein and Abu Quora weren’t even part of the main rotation. If Jordan’s worst fears surface, meaning Daghlas and Zaid skip the Manila joust, then I’m projecting veterans Khaldon Abu Ruqayah and Mahmoud Abdeen (both from Ittihad Schools) should take their places.

QATAR – The Qataris are going to break-in a new naturalized player for the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships and his name is NBA veteran Jarvis Hayes. At 6’8, Hayes is not the typical Qatari import, as most of their past reinforcements – Trey Johnson, Boney Watson, and Chauncey Leslie are examples – have been relatively smaller wingmen. Hayes, however, can play both on the wings or in the block, and he will definitely be a match-up nightmare for anyone in the continent. At 31, however, Hayes doesn’t really address one big concern for the Gulf powerhouse – most of their stars are getting old. Six of their players from the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup team are going to be on the wrong side of 30 when the Manila tournament begins and adding Hayes only increases their average age. What these old legs might lack in athleticism, however, will be made up with savvy and smarts, which were very helpful when they finished third in Tokyo last year. My projected final roster (I will be counting Abbas and Daghlas in this one) is:

C – Mohammed Yousef                 - 6’9 – 31 y.o.
F – Jarvis Hayes                              - 6’8 – 32 y.o.
F – Erfan Ali Saeed                         - 6’6 – 30 y.o.
G – Saad Abdulrahman                 - 6’4 – 28 y.o.
G – Mansour El Hadary                  - 5’10 – 23 y.o.
C – Omar Abdelkader                     - 6’9 – 30 y.o.
F/C – Yaseen Ismail Musa             - 6’9 – 33 y.o.
F – Baker Ahmad                             - 6’7 – 26 y.o.
G – Daoud Mousa                           - 6’4 – 31 y.o.
G – Khalid Suliman                         - 6’6 – 26 y.o.
F – Ali Turki Ali                                 - 6’7 – 31 y.o.

G – Hassan Mohammed                 - 6’3 – 22 y.o.

Coach: Tom Wisman

Yaseen Ismail Musa will lead a predominantly
old crew in Manila.
(image from

Now because seven of those guys are 30 or older, it’s quite probable that one or two names from Qatar’s youth program might move up. The one I’m half-expecting to see is recently naturalized 15 year-old 6’10 Meho Haracic from Bosnia. Like Gilas Pilipinas, Qatar is also set to go to Lithuania (on June 24) for conditioning and a couple of tune-up games.

Central Asia:
KAZAKHSTAN – Italian bench tactician Matteo Boniciolli is pulling out all the stops to help put the Kazakhs back in the top tier of Asian hoops. After being absent from the scene for three years, the former Soviet state is ready to show its basketball chops again, and this time they will be parading their first naturalized reinforcement in 31 year-old 6’0 Jerry Johnson. The Kazakhs are currently in Italy and will move afterwards to Slovenia as part of their buildup for the FIBA Asia joust. They will be one of the early birds in Manila so they can get acclimatized to the surroundings and to play a couple of tune-ups against Gilas Pilipinas. KAZ is expected to breeze through the first round as only India, Bahrain, and a SEABA team (either Malaysia or Thailand) stand in their way of sweeping Group D. My projected final roster is:

C – Anton Ponomarev                    - 6’10 – 25 y.o.
F – Anatoly Bose-Kolesnikov        - 6’7 – 25 y.o.
F – Alexandr Tyutyunik                    - 6’6 – 23 y.o.
G – Rustam Yargaliev                    - 6’5 – 27 y.o.
G – Jerry Johnson                           - 6’0 – 31 y.o.
C/F – Alexandr Zhigulin                  - 6’8 – 19 y.o.
F – Dmitriy Gavrilov                         - 6’8 – 27 y.o.
F/G – Roman Murayvov                  - 6’5 – 29 y.o.
G – Berik Ismailov                           - 6’7 – 27 y.o.
G – Alexey Kurochka                       - 6’1 – 19 y.o.
C – Omirzak Akhmet                       - 6’8 – 23 y.o.
F/G – Maxim Marchuk                     - 6’5 – 19 y.o.

Coach: Matteo Boniciolli

Kazakhstan's Anton Ponomarev will play in the FIBA Asia
tournament again after a 4-year absence.
(image from

With the addition of Johnson and the return of several stars who were absent the last time Kazakhstan played in the senior’s level of FIBA Asia – Anton Ponomarev, Rustam Yargaliev, and Alex Tyutyunik to name a few – this team is primed to contend not just for a quarterfinals slot. We can be sure that the Kazakhs are coming here to win one of the three tickets to Spain, and they will stop at nothing. Most of the names mentioned above are actually FIBA Asia vets already, but the likes of Kurochka and Marchuk are two of Kazakhstan’s best youth players and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make the final cut.

In part two, we will take a look at the four powerhouse teams from East Asia – China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.


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14 Comment

No Islam Abbas for Jordan?


sir enzo, is your arrangement of the team in these article is your assesstment of strongest to weakest team or is it random? Good article and i hope there is a 2nd part where you would compare their most probable lineup to the Gilas lineup. thanks and more power.. GO GILAS!!!


As of now, nope. He wasn't even selected for the national pool...


Oh no! Not arranged according to "power." Just went from West, to Gulf, to Central Asia. Iran came before Lebanon and Lebanon came before Jordan because that's how they finished in the 2013 WABA tourney :)


Nice scouting report, Enzo. What worries me more is the level of competition these teams are going thru as they prepare for the FIBA championships. Except for Lebanon and Qatar(though I am pretty sure the latter is also undergoing some serious build-up for FIBA), the other teams you mentioned are facing quality opposition in their training camps which obviously is aimed at priming themselves up for the FIBA competitions. Now, though the training camp Gilas had in Lithuania is not something to be scoffed at, I believe this still pales in comparison with the national teams the likes of Iran(against Italy, Turkey), China(against Australia, plus the upcoming Stankovic Cup), and even Jordan have been going up against as of late. Gilas needs more competition, and it needs high level competition asap. FIBA Asia, after all, is roughly just a month away. I heard there are plans to bring in some clubs from NZ and Australia to give Gilas some more tune-up games. I am aware that arranging for friendlies with some European national teams isn't easy, especially since FIBA Europe is still months away and most of the national teams in the continent have not even been assembled yet. Time is of the essence, and I hope Coach Chot finds some quality competition for Gilas in the coming weeks.


Balewala na yung training at preparation ng mga yan kung si Beau yung paglalaruin.


Yun, tama. They have to get used playing against bigger, stronger, and better conditioned teams.


Mr. MVP needs to get the Smart All-stars to play against the Gilas again.


Ok. I was asking about Islam Abbas cause he was a major part of the rotation during last fiba asia at wuhan. I think Islam and Soobzokoov will still be part of the team this coming fiba asia since they are the veterans of the team.

May I know if you have ideas of whom coach Chot will bring to the NZ games? Since I believe this will be their alternate tournament, since we will not be joining Jones Cup. Thanks and More Power!


Totally agree that Gilas needs a LOT more tune-ups against high-quality foes. Thanks for the comment! :)


Unfortunately, both Islam and Enver are not part of the national pool. It would be highly unlikely they would be called up to replace any of the young ones being groomed for the future...


So they are partly rebuilding. Also, If Zaid Abbas won't be playing, it will be already huge, but nevertheless, they are still a strong team.

Are these new players (not part of their last tourney) good? I have completely no idea. Any sleeper of a player?


Yup, they will still be strong, especially with Daghlas and Baxter still there. Of the new, young players, the one to really watch out for is Mohammad Shaher Hussein. He's a 23-year old 6'10 center who was already part of the NT in 2011, but he has improved a LOT and will be Jordan's main center for probably the next 6 years or so. He's their version of June Mar (only better).


Best piece on the fiba asia so far online...