2014 FIBA Asia U18 Players to Watch

The biggest FIBA Asia tournament of the year (the Asian Games Basketball Tournament in Incheon, South Korea isn’t a FIBA-Asia event) commences today in Doha, Qatar with the mighty Chinese, once again, being the favorites to pocket their third straight U18 title. China has won this tournament six of the last ten times, and the last time a non-China team won was back in 2008 when Iran beat Kazakhstan in the Final and won at home (incidentally, Iran’s only loss in that tournament was against the Nokia RP-Youth team coached by Franz Pumaren). 

In the previous edition, which was held in Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar), Mongolia in 2012, China narrowly beat South Korea in the Final to win the crown, while Iran defeated Japan in the battle for third place. Many stars hogged the limelight in that competition, led by China’s Wang Zhelin, Korea’s Lee Jong-Hyun, Iran’s Sajjad Mashayekhi, and Japan’s Yuta Watanabe. Four of those three guys (Wang, Lee, and Yuta) eventually played for their respective senior national teams the following year in Manila, while Mashayekhi was promoted to Iran’s senior NT in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China.

For this particular edition, there is a new breed of rising stars on whom we should keep tabs. Many, if not all, of the following guys are headed towards stardom in their respective countries, and don’t be surprised if they make appearances at the senior level very soon.

Clockwise from top-left: Kobe Paras (PHL), Byeon Jun-Hyeong (KOR),
Ryogo Sumino (JPN), and Mohammad Yousofvand (IRI).

So here they are, FIBA Asia hoop nuts, some of the players to watch in the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championships:

Mohammad Yousofvand (IRI) - 6’9 - 18 y.o. - Qazvin Club (Iranian Superleague)
- 2012 FIBA Asia U18 stats: 4.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.4spg
- Yousofvand was already part of Team Melli in 2012 when Iran placed third. He was already the team’s main back-up center then, sharing frontline chores with Saleh Foroutan and Hossein Rahmati, and he will definitely be the team’s main man here in Doha. Expect him to be a double-double machine who will vie for the tournament’s best center spot against China’s Zhou Qi. Weirdly enough, he was listed as born in 1995 back in 2012, but he’s now listed as being born in 1996. How’d that happen?

Mohammad Yousofvand battles Japan in this photo from the
2012 FIBA Asia U18 tourney.
(image from FIBA Asia)

Ryogo Sumino (JPN) - 6’3 - 18 y.o. - Fujiwara HS 
- 2012 FIBA Asia U18 stats: 6.2ppg, 1.6rpg
- Like Yousofvand, Sumino already played in the previous U18 tournament, and, again like Yousofvand, Sumino was also named Co-MVP of the 2014 NBA Basketball without Borders Asia Camp. He hit nearly one three-pointer a game in the 2012 U18 edition, and he should be Japan’s top perimeter option in Doha. Together with 6’7 Taiga Watanabe, Sumino will form a potent inside-outside combo for Team Hayabusa.

Ryogo Sumino is one of the rising stars of Japanese hoops.
(image from the JBA)

Byeon Jun-Hyeong (KOR) - 6’1 - 18 y.o. - Jemulpo HS
- 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships stats: 0.2ppg, 0.2rpg
- Byeon is not the best U18 player in South Korea. That is reserved for 6’8 Park Jung-Hyeon, who, fortunately for us, will not play in this tournament due to some academic issues heading to the college level. Still, without Park, the onus will be on Byeon and fellow rising star Jeon Hyun-Woo (Muryong HS) to carry the load for Korea. Byeon and Jeon will be the main wing duo that coach Kim Seung-Hwan will utilize in this joust.

Byeon Jun-Hyeong is expected to lead the Korean charge this year.
(image from J&J Media)

Tu Su-Han (TPE) - 5’11 - 17 y.o. - Nantou HS
- 2013 FIBA Asia U16 stats: 16.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.8spg, 1.4apg, 1.5 triples per game
- Tu was a thorn in the side of the Philippines last year when he torched out boys for 29 points in their first meeting in the U16 tourney in Tehran. Batang Gilas got revenge, limiting Tu to just 14 markers in their second meeting in the semifinals, but Tu still left quite an impression. At just a shade under 6 feet, Tu will not be the most imposing player on the hardwood, but his speed, shiftiness, and court savvy are to behold. He’s also a streaky sniper, averaging 1.5 triples per game in 2013.

Tu Su-Han should be among the tournament's leading scorers.
(image from FIBA Asia)

Kobe Paras (PHL) - 6’6 - 17. y.o. - Cathedral HS (USA)
- Kobe was already supposed to be part of the Philippine U16 team last year, but he chose, instead, to follow his dream of maybe making the NBA by going to high school in the States. His game has turned some heads as he hoops it up for the Cathedral HS Phantoms in Los Angeles, but he really is best known for his hops. He was, of course, the slam dunk champion of the 2013 FIBA World 3x3 tournament in Indonesia. Expect him to be among the most entertaining, if not dominant, players in Doha this year.

Kobe Paras brings his high-flying act to Doha, Qatar.
(screengrab from FIBA 3x3)

Zhou Qi (CHN) - 7’2 - 18 y.o. - Liaoning Flying Leopards (CBA)
- 2014 FIBA Asia Cup stats: 8.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.4bpg, 1.0spg, .512 FG%
- Zhou Qi first donned the Big Red’s colors in 2011 when he played for the U16 team. For every year since then, Zhou has been an important part of China’s successive youth teams. He played in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships, the 2012 FIBA Asia U18 Championships, and the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships. Just this year, he had his first taste of senior-level competition, representing China in the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan where the home team placed fourth after losing to Gilas Pilipinas in the battle for third. Zhou will certainly be the best player in this tournament, at least on paper, and nobody should be surprised if he leads the Chinese to another golden expedition. 

Zhou Qi is expected to be the most dominant presence in Doha.
(image from FIBA Asia)

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2 Comment

ipapalabas po b tong fiba asia under 18 sa pilipinas? i would really like to watch the games of our national team


For me, Ranbill Tongco is much better than Kobe Paras..and Why is it that Thirdy Ravena, Arvin Tolentino, and Price Rivero did not participate in FIBA U-18?