The Inaugural Baller Awards: The FIBA Asia Breakthrough Player, FIBA Asia Young Gun, and FIBA Asia Player of the Year for 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 FIBA Asia players who surprised us, those who showed prowess beyond their years, and those who dominated all year. We will give Baller Awards to the FIBA Asia Breakthrough Player, FIBA Asia Young Gun, and FIBA Asia Player of the Year for 2013.

Quincy Davis had a banner year for Taiwan.

The Breakthrough Player Nominees:

Mohammed Al Marwani  - Team Saudi Arabia and Al Ittihad (KSA Premier League)
The 6’9 Al Marwani made on the very first day of the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships, giving Marcus Douthit and the rest of the Philippine frontline fits. The big man from Al Ittihad was aggressive on both ends of the floor, eventually ending up with a dozen points, a dozen rebounds, and a block in 33 minutes of action. He helped Saudi keep in step with the hosts till late in the game when Gilas pulled away. He’s one of only three guys to average a double-double at the end of the tournament, along with Iran’s Hamed Haddadi and Bahrain’s CJ Giles. Not the worst company, eh? He also helped Al Ittihad capture the KSA Premier League title in 2013 by beating Al Ansar in the Finals.

Mohammed Al Marwani receives a pass against the Philippines

Kim Min-Goo – Team Korea, Kyung Hee University (Korean College Basketball League), and KCC Egis (KBL)
You might get tired reading about this kid (he was named the Best FIBA Asia SG of 2013 and he’s also nominated for the next two awards), but that’s just a testament to how good he was in 2013 and how promising he is for the future of Korean hoops. In case you didn’t read one of our previous posts featuring Min-Goo, here’s a summary: he led Kyung Hee to a collegiate three-peat, led Korea in winning the 2013 EABA tourney, was huge in Korea’s placing in the top three of the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships, and was chosen second overall in the 2013 KBL Draft. Currently, he is one of the top scorers for his club team, KCC Egis. And, well, he’s not even 23 yet.

Mohammad Hadrab – Team Jordan and Applied Science University (Jordan Premier League & FIBA Asia Champions Cup)
When Jordan’s veteran core (e.g. Sam Daghlas, Zaid Abbas, Islam Abbas, Ayman Idais, and Rasheim Wright) all missed the Manila tournament, it was clear this wouldn’t be the same squad who won silver in Wuhan two years ago. Still, Al Nashama was plenty competitive, and they can thank former substitute forward Mohammad Hadrab for that. Hadrab showcased his versatility in the tournament, leading Jordan in scoring. He also helped ASU win the 2013 Jordan Premier League title and finish third in the Champions Cup.

Duncan Reid – Team Hong Kong
The 6’9 half-Canadian was a revelation for Hong Kong in the FIBA Asia tourney, averaging about 12 points and 8 rebounds in 7 contests. Hong Kong won just one game for the entire competition, but Reid impressed a lot of people with his hustle and energy. His best games were a 17-point, 19-rebound effort against the hosts and a 20-point, 13-rebound total against the Japanese. He still needs to polish his post game, but, given his size and endurance, he has the makings of a solid FIBA Asia big man for future jousts.

Jayson Castro – Team Philippines and Tak N Text (PBA)
When the FIBA Asia tourney started, hardly anybody outside of the Philippines knew anything about Jayson, but now I’m sure he has become a feared cager for opposing guards throughout the continent. His combination of speed, shooting, and playmaking was difficult to match in Manila, and his place among Asia’s best guards is definitely secure. I mean, he was named part of the All-Star Five in his first try, and his team is headed to Spain for the World Cup!

And the BALLER goes to…

No way we can talk about FIBA Asia in 2013 without talking about the impact Castro has made. Everyone knew Marcus Douthit would be an awesome center. Everyone knew Chot Reyes would be a formidable coach. Everyone knew the Philippine team was loaded with talent. But i don’t think a lot of FIBA insiders expected Castro to make the sort of impact he did. The fact of the matter is Castro broke into the FIBA Asia scene and just left everyone tasting his dust.

Jayson Castro was a blur in the FIBA Asia tourney.

The Young Gun Nominees (guys 22 years old or younger):

Kim Min-Goo – Team Korea, Kyung Hee University (Korean College Basketball League), and KCC Egis (KBL)
Min-Goo was just a whirlwind for Korea. He impressed a lot of fans with his fearlessness, his hustle, and, most of all, his shooting. He connected on 10 triples total in the semis and battle for third place. Overall he led the entire field in three-pointers made. He led his team in scoring and total field goals made, and was second in assists and steals.

Amjyot Singh – Team India and Indian Overseas Bank/Tamil Nadu (India-NBC)
At 6’8 and nearing 22 years old, Amjyot is one young talent we cannot afford to overlook. I mean, this is a kid who had a WHOA chase-down block on Japan’s Naoto Tsuji. What should that tell you? That Amjyot is a fearless young fella with loads of athleticism. He averaged around 10 points, 7 rebounds, and more than 1 block per game for India, wowing a lot of fans with his hops and great timing. If he can polish his offensive game, then he can certainly blossom into one of the top stretch-forwards in the continent.

Guo Ailun – Team China and Liaoning Flying Leopards (CBA)
At many points in the Manila tournament, Guo looked like China’s best point guard. He was certainly the most aggressive and consistent one of the bunch, with Chen Jianghua and Liu Xiaoyu both struggling with lingering injuries. Overall, Guo impressed despite playing alongside more illustrious teammates. He averaged around 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, while shooting close to 60% from the field. Currently, Guo has been hampered by injuries. He has played just two games for Liaoning in the CBA. His club is currently mired in the middle of the standings with a 10-10 slate.

Wang Zhelin – Team China and Fujian QB Sturgeons (CBA)
At just 19 years of age, Wang was already made the usual starter for China in the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships. He averaged about 17 minutes per game, mainly because of two things: he was often in foul trouble (3 or more fouls in four games), and the much older Wang Zhizhi was actually more effective than this young kid from the Fujian Sturgeons. Still, Zhelin had some bright moments, in Manila, most notably his near-double-double efforts against Malaysia (21 points and 8 rebounds) and India (18 points and 9 boards). One aspect of his game he really has to work on, however, is his defense. He had just three blocks in nine games. He did much better in the CBA, though, where he normed 20 points and 13 rebounds in 2012-2013. Currently, he is putting up 24 points, 11 boards, and 1 block per outing in the 2013-2014 season.

Lee Jong-Hyun – Team Korea and Korea University (Korean University Basketball League)
Jong-Hyun not only made the national team at 19 years old, he also helped his school, Korea University, dethrone two-time champions Kyung-Hee in the KUBL Finals. Jong-Hyun had 19 points and 10 rebounds as his team won game three of the Finals. He was, by far, the most impressive freshman in the KUBL, and a lot of KBL squads are already salivating at the prospect of drafting a can’t-miss kid like Jong-Hyun. Of course, being one of the top bigs in Korea’s team during the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships is another feather in his cap.

And the BALLER goes to…

Just the most dominant young kid of the year in FIBA Asia hoops. He led Kyung-Hee to its fourth Finals appearance in a row, led Korea’s march to the 2014 World Cup, led Korea in the EABA tournament, and was drafted 2nd overall in the KBL. Right now, he’s the toast of Korean hoops, and it is not farfetched to imagine him wreaking havoc in future competitions.

Kim Min-Goo is our 2013 FIBA Asia Young Gun!

The Player of the Year Nominees:

Quincy Davis – Team Taiwan and Pure Youth Construction (Taiwan-SBL)
He’s the Best FIBA Asia Center of 2013 mainly because of how he changed Taiwan basketball. He’s the biggest reason Taiwan crashed the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship, finished second in the Jones Cup, and won the East Asian Games gold medal for basketball. It sure looks like Taiwan’s time has come.

Yi Jianlian – Team China and Guangdong Southern Tigers (CBA)
Yi continues to dominate in the CBA for Guangdong and remains the most skilled big man in the entire continent. He might have failed to land an outright World Cup berth for China during the FIBA Asia Men’s tourney, but Yi is still relatively young (in his mid-20s), so the Best FIBA Asia PF of 2013 still has a lot of time.

Yi Jianlian tests the defense of Kim Jong-Kyu.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami – Team Iran, Mahram Tehran (Iranian Superleague), Foolad Mahan Isfahan (FIBA Asia Champions Cup), and Fujian QB Sturgeons (CBA)
Bahrami was definitely the best natural small forward of the FIBA Asia tourney, and he was Iran’s main man for the entire year. Iran copped the WABA crown, the Jones Cup, the Champions Cup, and the FIBA Asia crown all with Bahrami leading the way. Now the Best FIBA Asia SF of 2013 is playing his trade for the Fujian Sturgeons in the CBA.

Kim Min-Goo – Team Korea, Kyung Hee University (Korean College Basketball League), and KCC Egis (KBL)
Min-Goo was Korea’s best college player in 2013, and he was also its best overall player in the FIBA Asia Men’s Championships. He led Kyung-Hee to its fourth straight KUBL Finals appearance and was picked second in the KBL Draft. Phew. Just so many achievements, and still so very young.

Jayson Castro – Team Philippines and Tak N Text (PBA)
The guy Pinoys call The Blur was the Best Player of the Philippine Cup, led TNT to the Philippine Cup title, was named to the First Team of the PBA’s 2012-2013 season, led Gilas to second place in the FIBA Asia Men’s tournament, and was named part of the FIBA Asia All-Star Five. He has left everyone tasting his dust.

And the BALLER goes to…

Bahrami made it his mission to redeem Iran for its failings in 2011. That’s mainly why Team Melli was just so unstoppable all year. And Iran’s main man? Well, both Hamed Haddadi and Mahdi Kamrani may make good arguments for that, but Iran will definitely not be Iran without Samad Nikkhah Bahrami.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami is the
FIBA Asia Player of the Year for 2013.

All images are from

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