The Inaugural Baller Awards: The Best FIBA Asia Point Guard & Shooting Guard of 2013

It was a banner year for FIBA Asia, but, in lieu of an Asian hoops year-ender, I felt it would be better to go position-by-position and look at the best FIBA Asia players of 2013. These are the guys who did really well in the Asian hoops circuit, in particular in the 2013 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the 2013 Jones Cup, the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships, and the subsequent qualifying tournaments. One thing I will also factor in is the players’ performances in their respective pro leagues. Were they able to lead their teams to the title in one, or some, or all of these tournaments? What kind of mark did they leave on FIBA Asia as a whole this year?

In this post, we will look at the top FIBA Asia backcourts of the year and award Baller Awards to the Best FIBA Asia Point Guard and Best FIBA Asia Shooting Guard of 2013.

Jayson Castro rose to stardom in 2013.
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The Point Guard Nominees:

Mahdi Kamrani – Team Iran, Foolad Mahan Esfahan (FIBA Asia Champions Cup), Mahram (2012-2013 Iranian Superleague), and Petrochimi (2013-2014 Iranian Superleague)
There aren’t enough accolades to bestow upon this pint-sized playmaker from Iran. 2013 was an awesome year for him as he helped Team Melli win the West Asian Basketball Association (WABA) tournament, the Jones Cup in Taiwan, and the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships. As part of the Mahram club, he reached the Finals of the Iranian Superleague, eventually losing to Petrochimi. He was loaned to the Foolad Mahan club, which represented Iran in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Kamrani averaged around 20 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds while shooting 50% from beyond the arc in that tournament, leading Foolad to the title. Of course, he was awesome in Iran’s championship conquest here in Manila, too. He normed around 10 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 rebounds while shooting 53% from the field. He ended up as the point guard with the highest player efficiency rating (EFF) at the end of the tournament.

Mahdi Kamrani was a very dominant playmaker
for the Iranians.
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Jayson Castro – Team Philippines and Talk N Text (PBA)
In 2013, the entire Asian continent got introduce to Jayson Castro, and the landscape of FIBA Asia hoops will never be the same again. The Blur was nothing short of spectacular in Gilas Pilipinas’s drive for a silver medal finish, its highest in nearly three decades, and, consequently, a slot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Castro averaged around a dozen points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists for the home team, which went on to win 7 of its 9 assignments. This was his first foray into the senior level of FIBA Asia hoops, and the TNT spitfire really turned a lot of heads (it was even rumored that he was being scouted by the Knicks). For his stellar play, Castro was named one of the members of the tournament’s All-Star Five. He exceled in the PBA, too, where he helped leads the Tropang Texters to their third Philippine Cup title in a row, beating the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters in the Finals. In that conference, Castro averaged around 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, while shooting 33% from three-point land and nearly 48% from the field. Castro was named Best Player of the Conference for the 2012-2013 Philippine Cup and eventually wound up as one of the three candidates for the PBA’s Most Valuable Player.

Jerry Johnson – Team Kazakhstan and BC Astana (Kazakhstan Div. 1 & VTB United League)
Kazakh hoop nuts were hoping Johnson would have the same effect on their team as Rasheim Wright had on Jordan back in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Johnson was atypical FIBA Asia naturalized player, mainly because most other “imports” were meant to fill holes in the frontline (e.g. Marcus Douthit, JR Sakuragi, and Quincy Davis). Kazakhstan didn’t really need another big man for its already sizeable frontcourt, so they got Johnson, who led BC Astana to four titles in the last two years (two Kazakhstan Cups and two Kazakhstan Division 1 titles). Johnson accounted for himself quite well in Manila, despite having a shoulder injury. He averaged about 12 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds, while shooting 81% from the line as the Snow Leopards broke into the quarterfinals (losing to Gilas Pilipinas) for the first time since 2007, when they finished fourth.

Wesam Al-Sous – Team Jordan and Applied Science University (Jordan-Premier League & FIBA Asia Champions Cup)
The veteran playmaker/sniper for Al Nashama had to play a bigger role in Manila because Jordan’s #1 PG, Sam Daghlas, chose to sit this one out. Daghlas was injured in the previous CBA season, and he (along with Jordanian forward Zaid Abbas) decided to skip the FIBA Asia tourney to recover for the 2013-2014 CBA. As a result, much of the scoring and playmaking pressure fell on Al-Sous, who already led his club team, Applied Science University (ASU), to the 2013 Jordan Premier League title and a bronze medal finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Here in Manila, Al-Sous seemed to relish as the team’s primary point guard. He averaged about 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game while nearly 40% from long distance and making close to 3 triples per game. Jordan, however, wasn’t able to match its 2011 finish (2nd place). Al Nashama lost 5 of its 9 games to finish at seventh place.

Guo Ailun – Team China and Liaoning Hunters (CBA)
20-year old Guo is tagged as the future ace playmaker for the Chinese, who have practically bid goodbye to veteran Liu Wei. Guo phas enjoyed a lot of success with the youth teams of China, and he has already been to the Olympics, playing for the Big Red in London. He hasn’t really tasted success at the senior level, though, and his time in Manila didn’t really change that. With Guo and another young PG in Liu Xiaoyu, China struggled with ball movement and defending opposing PGs. Having said that, Guo remains one of the premier young talents in the continent, mainly because of his ability to get to the hole and finish. This he displayed against our very own Gilas boys in the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo, where China rallied in the fourth period to defeat the Pinoys. In the 2013 FIBA Asia tourney, Guo played just around 17 minutes per game, alternating at the point with the aforementioned Liu and veteran Chen Jianghua. Despite the relatively short playing time, however, Guo impressed with about 8 points and 2 assists per game while shooting 31% from long ranger and, get this, nearly 60% from the field. In the CBA, he led Lianoning to fifth place in the standings and the quarterfinals of the 2013 play-offs, losing to the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in five games.

And the BALLER goes to…

There might be a little bit of bias here (who am I kidding, there’s a LOT of bias!), but I think that Castro’s impact on the Philippine national team and the splash he made on the FIBA Asia circuit give him the slightest of edges over Mahdi Kamrani. Kamrani has a longer list of achievements throughout 2013, but, again, the effect of Castro’s play on the entire FIBA Asia tourney cannot be denied. Perhaps that’s why he was named part of the All-Star Five instead of Kamrani. With that as the biggest argument, Jayson Castro is the best FIBA Asia point guard of 2013.

Jayson Castro gets the nod as our Best FIBA Asia Point Guard of 2013.
(image from

The Shooting Guard Nominees:

Vishesh Bhriguvanshi – Team India and ONGC Uttarakhand (India-NBC & FIBA Asia Champions Cup)
The 22-year old Bhriguvanshi has been on the Indian NT since 2009, and his maturity really shone through here in Manila, where he led India all the way to 11th place, which is a big improvement from the Blue Tigers’ 14th place finish in 2011. Throughout India’s 8 games, Bhriguvanshi led the way in scoring with 13.1ppg, launching about 12 attempts per outing. His biggest game was in India’s first win against Thailand, 89-65, where he scored 20 points on 8/16 FG shooting. In India’s local NBC-Federation Cup, Bhriguvanshi led ONGC Uttarakhand’s championship run, scoring 18 points in the title-clinching game over India Overseas Bank, 72-46. ONGC also participated in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, but they ended up winless in six games.

Kim Min-Goo – Team Korea, Kyung Hee Univerisity (Korean University Basketball League), and KCC Egis (KBL)
How good is this 22-year old kid? He’s the three-time MVP of the Korean University Basketball League, leading Kyung Hee University to the national title in 2011 and 2012. He dropped 48 points, including 10 triples in Korea’s last two 2013 FIBA Asia tourney games. He made a total of 25 treys in 9 games (the most in the entire tournament), and playing just under 20 minutes per outing at that! Min-Goo was so good he was named one of the members of the 2013 FIBA Asia All-Star Five! Right now, Min-Goo is continuing to do well after being drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 KBL Draft by KCC Egis. KCC is currently in the lower half of the standings with a 12-16 slate, but they cannot blame Min-Goo for that. He’s averaging about 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and nearly 2 triples per encounter. If China’s Guo Ailun is tagged to be the future star PG of FIBA Asia, then Min-Goo is definitely the future star SG.

Hamed Afagh – Team Iran, Petrochimi Bandar Imam (Iranian Superleague), and Foolad Mahan Isfahan (FIBA Asia Champions Cup)
Afagh has been a constant for Team Iran since they dominated the FIBA Asia scene in 2007. Whereas guys like Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, and Mahdi Kamrani have been the de facto faces of the team, Afagh has been more of the backstage guy who hoes the damage without the requisite fanfare. This he continued to do in 2013, when he played vital roles in Petrochimi’s march to the Iranian Superleague crown, Foolad Mahan’s conquest of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, and Iran’s unperturbed run in the Jones Cup and FIBA Asia Men’s tourney. Afagh was actually the third leading scorer for Iran here in Manila, averaging 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, while shooting 53% from the field and 45% from long range. He made a total of 17 threes in 9 games for a mean of nearly 2 triples per match. He also did really well in the Superleague, norming about 21 points per game for Petrochimi, while he also averaged about 10 markers per outing in the Champions Cup.

Lin Chih-Chieh – Team Taiwan and Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (CBA)
Being named to the FIBA Asia All-Star Five was definitely one of the highlights of Lin’s 2013. It was his first time to be given such a distinction, and it was fitting considering how the tournament served as a warning to the rest of the FIBA Asia field that Taiwan has crashed the top tier level once again. Despite missing the services of key players like Wu Tai-Hao and Jet Chang, Taiwan was able to finish in the top four – a first since 1999. In addition, Lin and his teammates had two huge wins that had positive repercussions back home in Taipei. Of course, these were the Ws over home team and rival Gilas Pilipinas, and all-around adversary China. In both games, Taiwan rallied, and, also in both games, Lin was instrumental. Against Gilas, Lin reeled in a near-triple-double lin – 20 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds, while he dropped 17 points and 7 dimes against the Chinese. Lin also had a good year in terms of his pro career. He helped Guangsha get 6th place in the 2012-2013 CBA season, advancing to the Playoffs in the process. The Lions, however, were swept by the Beijing Ducks in three games. Currently, Guangsha is eight in the standings of the 2013-2014 season with a 10-8 slate. Lin is their third-best scorer at 13.4ppg on top of 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and nearly 2 triples per game.

Lin Chih-Chieh tries to score against the Jordanian defense.
(image from

Daoud Musa Daoud – Team Qatar and Al Sadd (Qatar Div. 1)
What I loved about Daoud during the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament was how he played out of position (he’s a natural SG who had to play mostly PG during the competition) and still managed to do really well. Daoud played in all eight games of Qatar, becoming its second-leading scorer at around 10.8 points per game. He also averaged around 4 rebounds and 4 assists per outing as Qatar rebounded from a forgettable last place performance in 2011 to finish sixth here. In Qatar’s Division 1 Men’s League, Daoud also shone, helping Al Sadd cop its first crown by defeating defending champs, Al Rayyan, 69-64, in the one-game Finals. Daoud connected on three triples on his way to 17 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal in that game. Despite being one of Qatar’s elder statesmen at 31 years of age, it’s clear that Daoud Musa Daoud still has a lot of gas in the tank.

And the BALLER goes to…

He’s too young, yes, but he’s also too good to be overlooked. Here’s a kid who played with a lot of spunk and without any fear, especially during the last two games of the FIBA Asia tourney. He led Korea with 27 points off the bench in the semifinals against Gilas and then scored 21 more in Korea’s masterful conquest of Taiwan in the bronze medal game. And the kicker? He’s not even 23 years old yet. He just got drafted into the KBL and, well, I guess it’s safe to assume he’ll have a long and bright career ahead of him. Consequently, that also means he’ll be a thorn on our side for the foreseeable future.

Korean young gun Kim Min-Goo is our unlikely Best FIBA Asia SG of 2013.
(image from

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