All Roads Lead to Manila: Gilas Entry #16 – Asia’s Adopted Sons (Part 2 of the 2013 FIBA Asia Key Players Series)

It is July 19, 2013 here in Manila, and there are only 13 nights left before the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship Tournament, the first ever held in these parts in four decades, kicks off at the ultramodern Mall of Asia Arena and the historic Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

An air of excitement can be felt all around the metropolis as the promotions for the event continue to ramp up each day. Various signs along highways, advertisements on radio and TV, and promo spots on YouTube have popped up, readying the rabid Filipino populace for what should be the biggest sporting event of the year.

Marcus Douthit and the rest of Gilas will welcome
the other teams to Manila very soon.
(image from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

And as the last one-time-big-time FIBA Asia Men’s Championship (the format will change after the 2014 World Cup) closes in, we will take a look at the players and teams who will take part in it. I actually wanted to start with a reasonably thorough team-by-team preview (I mean, honestly, who else is going to do that here in Manila, right?), but seeing as FIBA Asia has not yet publicized the official submitted 12-man rosters of each team (despite the deadline coming and going last July 12), I am forced to look at the players from a different perspective.

In this second in a six-part series, I will put the spotlight on the naturalized players from East Asia. In parts three and four, I will focus on the veterans who are still persistently chugging along despite wobbly knees, and in the last two parts, I will write about the stars who are expected to be in peak form when the basketball version of Thrilla in Manila commences.

I hope that at the end of this series, readers of this blog and fans of Asian hoops will be more enlightened, and that FIBA Asia will finally release the official rosters.

Please lang.

Here we go.


Parts 1 & 2 are entitled Adopted Sons because I will detail the naturalized players expected to take part in the August joust. The naturalized players, of course, are those who were born citizens of a different country and who, eventually, chose to become citizens of their new Asian homes. By virtue of this, they have also chosen to play for a flag, a nation, a culture, and a people not entirely (originally) their own, but it is the hope of this new flag, nation, and culture, and the faith of these people that are carried by these adopted sons.

Lee Seung-Jun a.k.a. Eric Sandrin (KOR)
Specs: 6’9 - 35 years old
College: Sattle Pacific University Falcons (2000-2002)
Latest Achievement: Led South Korea’s title romp at the 2013 East Asia Basketball Championships in Incheon.
Last Tournament: Played in the 2013 William Jones Cup (Taiwan), helping Korea grab third place behind Iran and Taiwan-A. The games versus Lebanon were all nullified. Had they been retained, Korea would’ve had the second-best record at 6-2.

Korea's Lee Seung-Jun should be in a few
FIBA Asia highlight reels pretty soon.
(image from Da Village)

Seung-Jun isn’t really supposed to be counted as a naturalized player, since he is technically half-Korean and has played for the Korean NT as a local in past continental tournaments. The most recent citizenship snafu (see Wuhan 2011), however, has rendered him a naturalized player.

Contrary to my own expectations, he was picked by coach Yoo Jae-Hak over another half-Korean – Moon Tae-Young (a.k.a. Greg Stevenson). I expected Moon to get the nod mainly because he plays for Yoo in the KBL, but Seung-Jun’s great performance in the Jones Cup probably gave him the edge over Moon.

Seung-Jun will be an awesome complement to the frontcourt of Korea, especially since he can practically do anything. He is athletic despite his advanced age, he can hit the jumper with consistency, and he is exceptional in the open court. This is in contrast to his projected frontline partner – veteran Kim Joo-Sung, who prefers to get the ball on the low block and operate as a traditional big man. Together with Joo-Sung and Korea’s promising young and tall duo of Kim Jong-Kyu and Lee Jong-Hyun, Seung-Jun should make life really tough for the opposing bigs, especially considering China’s Wang Zhizhi won’t be around and Arsalan Kazemi doubtful to rejoin Iran after the NBA camps.

JR Sakuragi a.k.a. JR Henderson (JPN)
Specs: 6’9 - 37 years old
College: University of California – Los Angeles Bruins (1994-1998)
Latest Achievement: Helped Japan to a second-place finish in the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo.
Last Tournament: Played 47 games for the Asishin Seahorses in the 2013 Japanese Basketball League, averaging 15.5ppg, 12.4rpg, 4.4apg, and shooting 50% from the field and 34% from downtown.

JR Sakuragi is one of the elder statesmen in
the entire tournament.
(image from Japan Times)

Sakuragi will go to Manila as one of the oldest players to participate in the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament, but don’t let that fool you. This guy can still play. Japan lacked a second consistent big man in the recently concluded Jones Cup, and this is where Sakuragi comes in as he should complement the game of Kosuke Takeuchi very well. I expect Sakuragi will probably play the center position and Takeuchi will slide down to PF, which is his natural international position.

The absence of Kosuke’s twin brother, Joji, however, is a significant development, since only Atsuya Ota, Sean Hinkley, and youngster Yuta Watanabe will be left as relievers. They are all serviceable players, of course, but when push comes to shove, especially against the likes of Yaseen Ismail Musa (QAT), Quincy Davis (TPE), and Marcus Douthit (PHI), those guys might not be up to the task.

This means even more pressure is put on Sakuragi to not only perform well, but to play a lot of minutes, too. The name of the game for him is BOTH quality and quantity.

Quincy Davis (TPE)
Specs: 6’9 - 30 years old
College: Tulane University Green Wave (2002-2006)
Latest Achievement & Tournament: Led Taiwan to a second-place finish in the 2013 William Jones Cup, finishing behind Iran. He was named a member of the tournament’s First Team and All-Defensive Team.

Quincy Davis (R) hoists a shot over Lebanon's Ali Haidar.
(image from

Davis changes the dynamics of Taiwan in a very big way. He plugs their donut hole and just completes the team in much the same way Marcus Douthit did for Gilas Pilipinas in 2011. Does this make Taiwan an instant title contender? I wouldn’t go that far, but I believe this is their best chance to catch a podium finish ever since they finished third in 1989.

Similar to Japan, Taiwan can now afford to move Tseng Wen-Ting to his natural PF position, facing up the opposition to showcase his dangerous midrange game or his passing skills as Davis makes the seal in the paint. This was the team’s bread-and-butter during the Jones Cup, and we will probably see this often in Manila, too.

This also means there are now two inside options for coach Hsu Chin-Tse, which means he can allow shooters like Lin Chih-Chieh and Lu Cheng-Ju to have more wiggle room at the wings. All in all, Davis just bumped Taiwan up the ladder in a significant way.

Marcus Douthit (PHI)
Specs: 6’11 - 33 years old
College: Providence College Friars (2000-2004)
Latest Achievement: Led Gilas Pilipinas to the championship in the 2012 William Jones Cup. He was named to the tournament’s first team.
Latest Tournament: Helped Gilas place fourth in the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 15.2ppg, 11.3rpg, and 1.7bpg while shooting 64% from the field.

Here's to hoping Marcus Douthit's swan song
will be a big hit.
(image from

When this tournament is done, I am certain Douthit will go down as one of the best naturalized players to ever play in FIBA Asia, alongside greats like Joseph Vogel and Rasheim Wright. Over the past few years, he has been able to complement the Filipinos’ game really well, and in his last tour of duty for Gilas, I am sure he will not disappoint.

Unlike in previous tournaments, Douthit now has a young and promising big who can spell him for a few minutes or play alongside him as a PF/C. That guy, of course, is June Mar Fajardo, the 6’10 wonder from Cebu who has blossomed into a young star in the PBA. With Fajardo in the fold, Douthit should no longer be as worried about grabbing every rebound or being the last line of defense every single time down the floor.

Aside form that, though, Douthit’s main asset going into the championships is his prior experience in FIBA Asia. Unlike some of the other guys like Jimmy Baxter, Jarvis Hayes, or Quincy Davis, Douthit has been a FIBA Asia mainstay for several years now. He knows the grind, and he knows the necessary adjustments that have to be made.

In all, the expectations of Douthit are huge this year, and I have no doubt he will rise up to meet or even exceed them.


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4 Comment

chinese taipe looks fearsome to me. for me, they're of the same level as korea come august


As long as our guards can connect those long bombs outside and Marcus Douthit doing his best inside offensively and defensively, our dreams of singing "Spanish Eyes" looms great. GO GILAS!!!!!


Still China and Iran are the teams to beat in 2013 FIBA Championship. China placing 2nd in Stankovic Cup and Iran regaining the Jones Cup title will tell us that they are in A-level right now. But Gilas is playing in their homecourt which makes them as the biggest darkhorse in this tournament. Anything can happen. As they say it, "The ball is round". For me, it's 60-40 chance for the Philippines to grab a slot to the World FIBA Champioship in Spain. Good luck Gilas Team.


here we go.. good luck gilas!