Asian Basketball Journal - February 10, 2014

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, there used to be a program on cable called “The Asian Basketball Show.” As expected, it focused on the latest developments in the blooming Asian hoops scene. That was how I really got a closer look at many of the past and current FIBA Asia stars. Because of that show, I learned of Lebanese legends like Elie Mchantaf and Fadi El-Khatib, and how the Sagesse club was the winningest Lebanese side at that time. I also watched the career of Qatar’s Yaseen Musa just explode, as he was invited to try out in the NBA and was a dominant force in the Asian circuit. The show also presented constant updates of the top Asian leagues like the well-established CBA (dominated by the Bayi Rockets back then), the burgeoning KBL, and the upstart SBL.


Asian stars Yi Jianlian will be in-focus in this
new series of posts for Hoop Nut.
(image from China.cn)

Eventually, the Asian Basketball Show stopped airing, and my primary source for Asian hoops news became the internet. Several sites and online communities like Asia-Basket.com (for which I write), Interbasket.com, YaoMingMania.com, Niubball.com, Taiwan Hoops, and, naturally, FIBA-Asia.net were bookmarked on my PC. More recently, other sites/blogs like BasketKorea.com, Sakerland, Shonen Hoops, and BasketballBuddha.com have become my go-to sources. I’ve also connected with several like-minded hoop nuts from all around Asia. These are guys involved in various capacities — some are writers like me, some are managers/coaches, and even some players. 

Here in the Philippines, however, there really is no site (or person) really dedicated to the Asian hoops scene, which is why I have decided to start a new series of posts addressing just that void. I believe that Asian basketball is such a vibrant source of stories, and I think this should be shared with hoop nuts here in the Philippines and beyond.

Take note, however, that this will not be a roundup of game results. Instead, this series will churn out significant developments and issues in the Asian hoops scene. Which teams/players are on the rise? Who are the latest naturalized players? Who are the up-and-coming young guns from the region? What did Stephon Marbury do this time?! These are just some of the questions that this series of “journal-ish” posts will try to address.

Boom. There you go. 

Let’s begin.



CBA: Bye Giannakis. Hello Gong.
First, let’s talk about maybe one of the biggest recent developments — the sacking of Greek Giannakis Panagiotis (Yes, try pronouncing that while eating polvoron. Go ahead.) by the Chinese Basketball Association as the Men’s Basketball Team coach. In his place, former national team mentor Gong Luming returns to the bench, while Panagiotis is rumored to be a leading candidate to helm Greece in the 2014 World Cup. Panagiotis’s struggles with the Chinese team have been highly publicized, especially after their infamous fifth place finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships. Ever since that disappointing finish, Giannakis has been at odds with the CBA, so it’s not at all surprising he was let go. His original contract stipulated that he would be the coach till 2016, however, so, if reports are true, the CBA will continue to compensate him until that contract runs its course. Giannakis might still walk away the winner in this development, as he gets to return home, possibly play a role in Greece’s return to the World Cup (they finished second in 2006 with him as coach), and still get paid by the Chinese. Give him a gold medal for being that cunning, whether it was intentional or not.


Giannakis "The Dragon" Panagiotis bids adieu to the Chinese.
(image from FIBAAsia.net)

Gong, meanwhile, is one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese hoops. He coached the Chinese Men’s team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to a surprising eighth place finish. They finished with a 2-5 record, winning against Angola and Argentina. Almost immediately, morale seems to be high in the CBA because of this, and Gong is expected to lead China’s redemptive campaign in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.


CBA: Yi and the Southern Tigers remain strong
Still in the CBA, it seems like Yi Jianlian and the Guangdong Southern Tigers remain as the title favorites. Yi had 31 points and 7 rebounds as Guangdong defeated Wang Zhizhi’s Bayi Rockets this past week, 106-89. This means Guangdong is now at 28-3, firmly in first place. The other potential CBA Playoff teams are the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, the Beijing Ducks, the Dongguan Leopards, the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, the Tianjin Golden Lions, the Shanghai Sharks, and the Lianong Flying Leopards. Last year’s other finalist, the Shandong Lions (formerly the Flaming Bulls) are at ninth position outside looking in.


Jordanian star Sam Daghlas seems
at home in the CBA.
(image from OSports.cn)

One interesting development that happened this past week was Stephon Marbury returning to action after injury for the Bejing Ducks. Beijing played Shandong earlier this past week and Marbury stole the show, albeit not in the best way. As Shandong’s Sui Ran took to the hole for a drive, Marbury fouled him hard, and Sui’s teammate, Wu Ke, wasn’t exactly happy about it. Wu and Stephon scuffled for a bit, with the latter getting ejected. He incurred two technical fouls in a matter of seconds — the first because of his foul on Sui and the second because of his altercation with Wu. He was then, quite literally, locked out of the playing area. 


Stephon Marbury is literally locked out of the court.
(image from OSports.cn)


Watch out for the Wu-Marbury scuffle at around the 1:34 mark.



KBL: Race for the top spot tightens after this week
As of this writing, the top position in the Korean Basketball League is a three-horse race. The main reason for this is this -- the consecutive defeats of defending champion Ulsan Mobis Phoebus to the league’s cellar-dweller, Wonju Dongbu Promy, 72-65, and the Goyang Orions, 81-77. Former Korean NT player Lee Kwang-Jae led Dongbu’s shocker of a win with 16 points and 4 triples, while Goyang was paced by the 21 points and 8 boards of import Leon Williams in its own win against Ulsan. The other two clubs vying for the top seed are the Seoul SK Knights, who are led by spitfire guard Kim Sun-Hyung, and the Changwon LG Sakers, who feature former and current NT players like Kim Si-Rae, Moon Tae-Jong (Jarod Stevenson), and Kim Jong-Kyu. 

One thing I’ve been really monitoring this season in the KBL has been the development of some of Korea’s top big men. I’m talking about young guys like the aforementioned Jong-Kyu, Goyang’s super sophomore Jang Jae-Seok, and Anyang KGC’s star PF, Oh Se-Keun. FIBA Asia fans may be familiar with both Oh and Kim, since both of them have served in the men’s NT of Korea in the past few years. Oh played for Korea in the 2009 and 2011 FIBA Asia tourneys as well as the 2010 Asian Games and the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament. Kim, for his part, has been a mainstay of the Korean NT from 2011 till the present. Jang, meanwhile, has never been named to the final roster of the men’s team, but I’m projecting that he and Oh will replace veterans Lee Seung-Jun and Kim Joo-Sung in the 2014 Asiad in Incheon. The Koreans are prioritizing a younger set for their NT, and it only makes sense for these guys, especially Oh, to be named to the national quintet.


Oh Se-Keun seems healthy enough to
return to the Korean NT.
(image from the KBL)

NBL-Japan: The first NBL-Japan All-Star Game is a hit
When the Japanese Basketball League expanded and re-branded itself into the National Basketball League late in 2013, there were a lot of skeptics. The old JBL had problems filling gymnasiums and maintaining fan interest. Its rival organization, the BJ (Basketball Japan) League, seemed more vibrant and marketable, what with more imports and seemingly more competitive play. One thing that the JBL had going was that majority of the players on the Japanese NT played for its teams. For instance, in the 2013 Japanese NT to the FIBA Asia tournament, only back-up big man Atsuya Ota plied his trade in the BJ-League. The 6’9 Ota plays for the Hamamatsu Phoenix in the BJ-League. Everyone else, however, with the exception of HS standout Yuta Watanabe and collegiate star , plays in the now-defunct JBL. 

The repackaged NBL-Japan opened late in 2013 with lots of enthusiasm, and the highlight was undoubtedly its maiden All-Star Game last December. Because the NBL features a geographically-based system, much like most other basketball leagues around the world, the players were divided into the East and West. The East All-Star team featured the Takeuchi twins, legendary shooter Takehiko Orimo, former NBAer Yuta Tabuse, NT mainstays Naoto Tsuji and Ryota Sakurai, and former PBA import Nick Fazekas. Among the familiar names out West were veterans Kei Igarashi and Takuya Kawamura, and 2013 NT players JR Sakuragi and Kosuke Kanamaru. The West team was coached by former NT tactician Zeljko Pavlicevic. 


The first ever All-Stars of NBL-Japan!
(image from NBL-Japan)

The All-Star Game was played last December 28, 2013 (Japan time) at the Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo (this was the venue of the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup, where Gilas placed fourth). The Gymnasium is not at all big — it has a seating capacity of just 2,000, which is even less than that of the Blue Eagle Gym (seating capaticy is 7,500) inside the Ateneo de Manila campus. Attendance for the All-Star Game, however, was at nearly 3,500, so, quite literally, the Gymnasium was bursting at the seams. This represented an unqualified success for the NBL, and served to indicate a promising future for the league. As for the result, the West All-Stars beat the East, 114-106, behind the 27 points and 15 rebounds of Wakayama Trians import Michael Parker. Kanamaru backstopped Parker with 5 treys on his way to 17 points. Former NT stalwart Yusuke Okada of the Toyota Alvark led the East with 20 points, while Fazekas of the Toshiba Brave Thunders scored 19 markers. Magnum Rolle, import of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins, was crowned the Slam Dunk Champion, while Naoto Tsuji won the Three-Point Shooting event.

A few months after being suspended by FIBA, the Lebanese hoop authorities got their act together and jump-started the FLB once again. The FLB started just this month, and already action heated up fast. Traditional favorites Al Riyadi and Sagesse remain undefeated after three games respectively, while Amchit, Byblos, and Tadamon are all tied up at 2-1. 
FLB: Lebanese basketball returns to action!

Lebanese NT sniper Elie Stephan of Sagesse has been one of the most notable players so far, averaging close to 22 points. In Sagesse’s latest win — an 81-74 triumph over Moutahed — Stephan drained 7 triples on his way to 25 points. Stephan is shooting 60% from beyond the arc, making 5 triples per match. Stephan’s Sagesse teammate, Rodrigue Akl, also a national team player, has been doing well, too. Akl currently leads the FLB with 9 assists per game on top of 8 points and 2 steals per outing. 

Other locals who have done well are twin towers Charles and Philip Tabet. Charles is averaging around 18 points and 11 rebounds for Moutahed, while Philip is norming 14 markers and 9 boards for Champville. Both are being eyed to take over the Lebanese NT’s frontline in the near future. Naturalized player Loren Woods is also impressing with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 block per game for Al-Riyadi. Expect Woods to be part of Lebanon’s team in the 2014 Asiad. 


Elie Stephan of Sagesse has been on fire in the FLB.
(image from the Daily Star)


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Please continue sir this kind of info re Asian hoops. asia-basket.com is to limited and will not give this much info.. if you can also update us with the ff teams:

Chinese Taipei - Their National Team is getting old, especially their frontline. we would like more info about them sir
Jordan - after being demolished by iran during the QF match can we expect developing players from Jordan like the quality of Abbas, Daghles.. etc
Qatar - do you see any upcoming players (real qataris not africans) from the Qatar local league?
Singapore - targets to be the no.2 best team from southeast Asia but their shallow pool of talent will stop them from further developing. Is it really true that they will put up a naturalized player that can play the 5 or 4 spot>

Balas